I am grateful that Mick Lynch and the RMT provided a limited service into London on Thursday, 16 March, otherwise I would have missed the opportunity to attend the When Winter Turns To Spring album launch at the Boulevard Soho. The venue is an intimate club where the welcome is friendly and professional. After being shown to my seat and having a glass of wine (courtesy of Hampstead Jazz Club) poured for me I settled in for an evening of live jazz.
Vocalist Jo Harrop and pianist Paul Edis were welcomed to the stage by Jazz FMs Nigel Williams, as were bass player Jihad Darwish and drummer Peter Adam Hill. They opened the set with ‘Short Story’, written by Paul and Kate Edis, and played through the first four tracks from the album. The playing was excellent and I was particularly taken with Darwish on bass and the drumming of Hill. I have heard Jo Harrop and Paul Edis live before and there is something quite special about their musical relationship – not only as performers but as lyricist and composer too. Added to all of this was the superb playing by the string quartet Amika whose sound added another beautiful layer to what was already sounding very good.
The evening continued with more from the album with ‘Only Spring Will Decide’ being described in my notes as having a wonderful sumptuous sound. ‘Breathing’ opened with the Amika backed by a bass led rhythm section and delightful brushwork from Peter Adam Hill. The album title track was a good example of the use of tempo variation, crisp drumming, wonderful vocals, and a powerful drum section. This led to the final number of the first set ‘Spring Put The Swing In My Set’ and swing it did with a classic jazz era feel to it that the audience seemed to enjoy enormously.
‘Just One Of Those Things’ opened the second set with a drum solo to which vocals were added before the ensemble came together in another swinging classic jazz era sound. Jihad Darwish played a glorious bass solo, which got a genuine positive response from the audience and Jo Harrop showed that she can scat with the best of them. This second set moved away from the new album material, and we were treated to numbers from some of Jo’s other work such as the bluesy ‘The Heart Wants What The Heart Wants’ with its terrific vocal tone.
The popular ‘Red Mary Janes and A Brand New Hat’ was polished off in style and the ballad ‘I Think You Better Go’ had Amika return to the stage to add that gorgeous string sound to Jo’s equally captivating sounding vocals. One the standout moments of the evening came from the song ‘Life Inside’, which features on the The Heart Wants album on the Lateralize label. Everything about this number: the way the instruments blended; how the use of the bowed bass changed the sound’s texture; the added depth of colour from the string section; and, of course, the amazing delivery from Jo Harrop. Jo does not just sing a song, she lives and breathes it; she believes in what she is singing and that belief is transferred to the musicians around her which, in turn, creates something quite magical.
The evening finished with ‘If I Knew’, an emotive, heart rendered dedication to her father, and ‘Everything’s Changing’, a song about not going through change alone. When Winter Turns To Spring is an album about transition from the dark, cold winter into something brighter, and warmer; something fresh and hopeful. I look forward to hearing the album in full at a later date but I already know that it will sound different to the live performance because of the different instrumentation used and the variety of first-rate musicians who will add their own voice to the music written by Paul, Jo, Kate, and Gustav Holst.
When Winter Turns To Spring is available to purchase from Bandcamp.