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REVIEW: TINA HARROD - TEMPORARY PEOPLE
Temporary People

Tina Harrod
Temporary People

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The Revolution Is Eternal

Tina Harrod
The Revolution Is Eternal

Worksongs

Tina Harrod
Worksongs

An Aching Honesty John Shand SMH 2009


  Singers are the most naked performers of all. With neither instruments nor acting roles to hide behind, the sound of their voices plus their musicality, sensitivity and taste are all on full display. That’s why so many cloak themselves in a persona, even though it negates their most powerful weapon: their vulnerability.Tina Harrod has never been more naked than on this, her third album. At its most intense, her voice is like shattered glass and she spends more time in her upper range than the contralto that has served her so well. Shy glimpses of the little girl that inhabits every woman are still there, although this time they come amid a confronting corrosiveness and emotional edginess that exact a reaction.Penned by Harrod in collaboration with Jonathon Zwartz, Dave Symes or the late Jackie Orszaczky (her partner), the songs blend the soul stylings of her Shacked Up In Paradise  debut with the jazzy sensibilities of the more recent Worksongs.Ultimately, however, Harrod, her co-composers and musicians transcend styles as they collectively illuminate the aching honesty of her diverse perspectives on Orszaczky’s sickness, dying, absence and constant memory.The grief is real and raw but there is also a cathartic element at work, so we are not so much eavesdropping on confessions as being granted insight into a personal experience of universal truth. The musical settings are often stripped of ornamentation, thereby delineating the voice as a simple black frame surrounding a moody and monotone photograph. It is not until the third track, ‘Underneath Your Spell’, that Harrod really begins to cast her own spell. Co-written with Zwartz, this piece is as pared-back as any, using an elegiac string-trio arrangement by way of contrast – a formula also applied to the groovier ‘Paper Cup’. While ‘7 Days’ superbly enunciates the common sensation that a lost loved one is about to walk through the door, one of the hardest-hitting lyrics, ‘The Buried Treasure Song’, has a surprising musical bounce to it. The outstanding players include pianists Matt McMahon and Tom O’Halloran, bassists Zwartz and Symes, and drummers Hamish Stuart and Evan Mannell, with guest appearances from saxophonist Bernie McGann, trombonist James Greening and guitarist Arne Hanna. It’s launched at the Basement on October 14.

Chris Peken, City News Oct 2009

Tina Harrod is the thinking, feeling persons Nora Jones. When Tina Harrod sings she is the vocal embodiment of a real life lived; a life with all its complexities, all its foibles and frailties along with its joys and exaltations. Her Worksongs album of last year reinterpreted songs by the likes of Nick Drake and Bob Dylan with a class and sophistication reminiscent of the great Nina Simone (who she also covered). Temporary People continues Tinas collaboration with the inimitable trio of bassist Jonathan Zwartz, pianist Matt McMahon and drummer Hamish Stuart. To hear the subtle interplay of these three musicians behind Harrod is to understand how music is a language, and how great conversations are possible MacMahons quiet and thoughtful observations interspersed amongst the thread of cohesive dialogue that Zwartz and Stuart weave. All allowing for Harrod to float and soar; never more so than on Underneath Your Spell, where Harrod takes us under her wing and shows us the view from the skies with the aid of luscious string arrangements by Adrian Keating. The Buried Treasure provides the greatest cross-over moment on the album, a jazz-pop groove that puts the aforementioned Ms Jones to shame. Let us hope its title is a misnomer.
****
Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Bernard Zuel, SMH Oct 2009

Farewell to funk
Tina Harrod's voice has taken on a new edge, writes Bernard Zuel.
The voice still has a sense of wonder about it. ''Something came together in those four days,'' she says slowly, letting the silence afterwards be the punctuation.
Tina Harrod is not one to waste time with idle chat or sentimental claptrap; she's more inclined to look sceptically on effusive praise and outbursts of emotions. So for her to make this comment about the recording of Temporary People, her third album but the first written and recorded after the death of her long-time musical and life partner Jackie Orszaczky, is a sign of the depth of feeling behind the work.
Unlike her previous album, Worksongs, which mixed some originals in with a batch of standards and favourites of hers, the new album, which is more inclined to jazz than her soul roots, is all original material by Harrod and her clutch of bassplayer co-writers, Jonathan Zwartz, Dave Symes and, of course, Orszaczky.
''I could never hear enough bass in my parents' stereo and I used to drive them crazy because I had to turn it up so loud,'' she says.
The music came from Harrod and Zwartz, in particular, finding some really good language, in part because it was the right time for Zwartz to branch out into writing material. But was it also the right time for the lyrics? Harrod's words are powerful, honest and effective meditations on the contradictions of long-lasting love. ''Yeah, it was the right time, although I didn't know it,'' she chuckles. ''They just sort of came out very fast, which was a real shock, you know, because you kind of have to rethink the way everything works - the way I work.

''And when you look at the words you write you realise that some of that you've lived but some of it you're living now. Some of it is almost like a prophecy and that's really fascinating, quite mysterious and beautiful.''
The changes aren't confined to the way she works but the way Harrod, one of our finest vocalists, sings. Where once she was just about our best soul singer, now she's something broader, more challenging.
''I'm not singing funky soul music any more ,'' Harrod says. ''The sound on this album is more me and soul is just part of it. But the music we play, like the jazz standards, I approach in a different way [to jazz singers], too. I am not doing anything radically different with those songs; I'm just being myself. And the more I get to know who that is, the more interesting the music becomes.''
The truth is, great singers only reach that place after knowing themselves through love and loss and pain and life. Which may be why Harrod looks like she is approaching her peak.
''Don't say that,'' she says urgently, as if convinced that this means she's reached the end. But listen to the album and you hear a woman who isn't burdened with a young or inexperienced singer's fear of sounding imperfect but, instead, is searching for truth.
''All these years I tried to sing perfectly,'' she says dismissively. ''But something much bigger than my shitty little wants from day-to-day is operating when I'm singing. And that bigger picture has taken me as a singer by the horns and decided how I'm going to sound.

''It's only now that I'm starting to accept those points of vulnerability and imperfection, that I and everybody else have, that I'm happy with what I'm doing.''
Wednesday, 9.30pm, Basement, 9251 2797, $22/$17. October 30-31, Sound Lounge, Seymour Centre, 9351 7940, $20/$15.

JESSICA NICHOLAS, The Age Nov 2009
There’s a line in Tina Harrod’s song Underneath Your Spell where Harrod reveals, with simple clarity, the cathartic effect of expressing pain through music: “And my broken heart will sing…”  And sing it did, with unflinching honesty, when Harrod launched her new album at Bennetts Lane on Friday night.

The album (Temporary People) is dedicated to the memory of Harrod’s partner, Jackie Orszaczky, who died in February last year.  But while many of the songs deal with the inescapable suffering that accompanies profound loss, the mood of the album is neither maudlin nor overtly melancholy.

Similarly, the mood on stage at Bennetts Lane on Friday was as celebratory as it was reflective.  Harrod’s roots as a soul and R&B singer tend to propel her towards powerful musical climaxes, and the intensity of her delivery suggests a blazing inner strength.  On Friday, this intensity gave Harrod’s vocals an edge that verged on harshness, emphasizing the raw grain in her voice and mirroring the depth of its emotional impact.

Her superb band (pianist Matt McMahon, bassist Jonathan Zwartz – who co-wrote much of this repertoire – and drummer Evan Mannell) created flexible musical settings to accommodate the poetic paradoxes inherent in Harrod’s lyrics.  Songs like Move On and The Buried Treasure Song resonated with fierce indignation, yet were buoyed by the band’s warmly soulful sway. Hurry bubbled with the unbridled joy of falling in love, but also the desperate recognition of life’s brevity.  And The Time Stood Still conveyed not only the unspeakable loneliness of loss, but a willingness to embrace life’s exquisite mystery as it pushes us into the unknown.

Bennetts Lane Jazz Lab 



Friday 6 November   


Michael Dwyer, The Age (4 stars)

Sydney soul singer Tina Harrod lost her partner, jazz bassist Jackie Orszaczky, to cancer last year and the rawness of her grief and her feverish need for answers sets up a spine-tingling tension with her understated bass/ drums/ piano jazz trio. Comparisons with Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin are apt, both in Harrod's devastating emotional pitch as a singer and the calibre of the arrangements, which include classy soul-sister backing harmonies and spare strings. But Harrod's lyrics are so unflinchingly potent and her voice so much her own that not even Billie Holiday can cast a shadow here.


Phil Stafford Courier Mail, 5 stars
If a records as good as this were released on a major label in the US, there'd be talk of a new Billie or Bessie, a neo Nina or another Ella. And while all four of those legendary American singers have certainly influenced Australia's Tina Harrod, she has something none of them ever had - the ability to reinvent herself.
Previously known as one of the country's pre-eminent female R&B and soul singers, Harrod can now push her claims as a Jazz diva.
Harrod's third solo album announces her as a fully rounded vocal and compositional talent. Mining a rich seam of original material that poured out following the death last year of longtime partner Jackie Orszaczky, Temporary People is dedicated to his memory: his spirit suffuses the record and not only because three if its 12 impeccable tracks were co-written with the virtuoso bassist and bandleader.
While Orszaczky is irreplaceable in every sense, Jonathan Zwartz steps into the role as Harrod's bass player , writing collaborator and co-producer with consummate ease. Zwartz figures in Harrods regular live band and is one of the core trio backing her on this album, with drummer Hamish Stuart and pianist Matt McMahon. Also in the mix are strings, trombone, alto sax and guitar, each used in virtual isolation on specific tracks.
All the more to showcase Harrod's stunning remade voice, now truly an instrument in its own right, pushed out of its comfort zone into a hitherto uncharted upper register, though never out of its depth. Just go with it.



John McBeath, The Australian 2009
Following her award winning Worksongs, Sydney vocalist Tina Harrod has produced an intensely personal album of her own lyrics set to melodies by bassist Jonathan Zwartz, and three by her late partner, musician Jackie Orszaczky, to whom this recording is dedicated. The usual love-and-loss themes take on a truer, deeper meaning here as Harrod's wrenching words trace out her life and feelings with Orszaczky and the finality of his loss. The music is heavily soul-inflected and, as with the former album, features outstanding backing from pianist Matt McMahon, bassist Zwartz and Hamish Stuart on drums. Several guest artists make appearances, notably James Greening,whose trombone solo on Seven Days aches with longing, while Bernie McGann's alto sax on Blue on the Inside is suitably melancholy.
Harrod's style embodies force and fragility and the use of back-up vocals - some incorporating her voice- enable moving call and response passages, especially effective in Temporary People, a reminder of impermanence. There are many insightful lines in these songs: "You're unsafe, just like my high-heeled shoes on a downhill slope” captures an observation with poetic lyricism. Most of the lyrics are infused with pain, nostalgia and sadness, but the music lifts and transcends with its universal themes. "And the time stood still, just like winter frozen on the ground"



Catherine Gale, The Advocate 2009

IT’S quite a task to listen to Tina Harrod’s album Temporary People without stifling a tear.The New Zealand-born jazz and soul singer has dedicated her third album to the memory of her partner, Sydney musician Jackie Orszaczky, who died in February last year after a long illness. What Becomes of People opens thealbum with beautifully moody jazz piano by Matt McMahon, Hamish Stuart’s subdued percussion and Harrod’s utterly divine voice— a seemingly impossible blend of power, heartache and frailty. But it’s track three, the epic Underneath Your Spell, where Harrod bravely exposes both the pain of losing her partner while she celebrates the love they shared. Adrian Keating’s skilled tring arrangement underscores her evocative lyrics (‘‘I pack my tears in an overnight bag; and I travel alone; and in my dreams you hold me tight; you don’t let me go’’) without taking anything away from Harrod’s emotionfilled voice. With the addition of her own backing vocals, the superb band takes the track to a soaring conclusion. Despite its heart-wrenching sentiments, Temporary People is not a study in melancholy. Mostly written by Harrod and Jonathan Zwartz, the album also includes three tracks penned with Orszaczky. The highlight of this trio is the lovely Blue On The Inside, which boasts the great Bernie McGann on saxophone.
Released too late for 2009 ARIA inclusion, this is a shoe-in for best jazz album in next year’s awards— it’s hard to fault.