A CRITICALLY acclaimed jazz vocalist will perform at Hexham Jazz Festival on Saturday, May 14.

Jo Harrop and her band will be joined by the Northumbria Quartet at Hexham Abbey, and will play songs from her first album The Heart Wants.

The album features original material and tracks from the Great American Songbook.

Featuring world renowned musicians, such as Grammy Award winner jazz bassist Christian McBride, and pianist Jason Rebello who has worked with artists including Sting, Jo said the response to the album has been positive.

"It hasn't had a bad review yet. Everyone's been really supportive, and The Guardian gave it a four-star review. It's been absolutely mind-blowing."

Signed by Lateralize Records in 2019, Jo said the label made it possible to record her debut album, kept her working through the pandemic, and helped her to reach global audiences.

Written in 2021 through lockdown, the album is a collection of songs that tell a story, Jo said. 

"There's influences of blues, soul and pop, and it appeals to jazz fans and a wider audience."

"It's got themes of love and loss, and a message of hope, of not being alone, which I think people needed to hear," she said.

Listening to a wide range of music led to songs based on jazz with influences in folk and soul. Jo said: "They're songs that tell stories, they're based on truth that people can relate to."

"I love Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, all the classics, but I also love bluesy stuff like Nina Simone and Tom Waits."

Jo's biggest career changes have taken place in the last four or five years, and have included meeting and working with Jamie McCredie, the main guitarist in her band and co-producer of The Heart Wants. Both from Chester-le-Street, Jo said: "It's like having a musical soulmate".

"I'm excited to play at Hexham. I always have a lovely time with northern crowds, there's a lot of pride and a lot of love. I haven't been to Hexham for years but the festival organisers have made us feel welcome."

Songs from the album have been praised by Jo Whiley and Iggy Pop, and have been played on Radio 2, Radio 6 and Jazz FM.

In the future, Jo wants to travel worldwide. "I want to have a long career, keep making albums that people love, and reach bigger audiences around the world."