Tina Harrod, born in New Zealand with Fijian and Welsh heritage, is a multi-award winning Australian recording artist. Tina’s four albums have received high critical acclaim and her fifth album, City of Longing, is released in 2018.
Tina’s innovative music draws from the deep well of soul and jazz, yet in a totally contemporary style.
“One of our finest vocalists.” – Bernard Zuel, SMH
“The power of Nina Simone with the expression of Billie Holiday, yet Harrod’s individuality is never compromised.” – The Australian
Tina has also performed with Jimmy Barnes, Paul Kelly, Diesel, Vika & Linda Bull, Katie Noonan, Paul Grabowsky, The Whitlams, Guy Sebastian, Thirsty Merc, Wendy Matthews and Jackie Orszaczky.
She has performed extensively in Australia and Europe including Sydney Opera House, Perth International Arts Festival, Melbourne Jazz Festival, Sydney Festival, JazzAhead in Bremen, and in Hungary: Sziget Festival, the Palace of Arts and Budapest Blues Festival.
“Like Eartha Kitt in a contemporary context, blowing your mind with its lyrical content and luscious sonic capability, Harrod’s voice … gives the gift of musical ascension.” – Sydney Morning Herald.
Tina Harrod is based on Scotland Island in Sydney’s Pittwater, and is the founding creative director of the popular Northern Beaches music venue, The Co-op Club.
CITY OF LONGING
Bernard Zuel, April 24 2018 bernardzuel.net
This may strike you as unlikely for Tina Harrod, who has the talent of a giant but the profile of a fringe dweller in a country which for so long didn’t really know what to do with soul, jazz and R&B, with strong women (or let’s face it, women at all), and especially with strong women performing soul, jazz and R&B. There were two words that came to mind as this album seeped into me: Beyoncé Knowles.
Not that City Of Longing is an Antipodean take on sexual and social awakening ala Beyonce, or a powerful case for black lives in the centre of culture ala Lemonade. And it certainly is not a chance to bend bodies into new shapes so you can put a ring on it.
Rather it is that this album finds Harrod exploring every corner of and beyond soul/R&B, her connection to them operating in such a freewheeling way that stylistic differences disappear and a personal vision emerges. And that vision is delivered with strength and certainty that casts aside the petty naysayers who thrive here.
These songs traverse hard-edged soul, and what is almost doo-wop; funk that swings on bass and brass, and moments of tenderness; a casual way with jazz, and some side-eye modern R&B. Linking them is the centered sound and songwriting – Harrod and her principal collaborator, Stu Hunter, mostly, but also co-writers Dave Symes, Aron Ottignon, and Matt McMahon – and Harrod’s vocal fierceness.
Two things about that. Firstly, that “fierceness” isn’t some euphemism for angry/difficult/strident in the way it’s often applied to women who aren’t being compliant. Would that more were fierce! Would that more had the insight and strength of Red Pill Girl: “They will lay gold/They will lay silver at her feet/But she won’t take it.
In this case I mean the focus she’s brought to both the performances and the tone of the album. Whether wistful-with-an-edge in the title track, sanguine even in her disgust in Trophy Girl, or wise and clear in Loaded, Harrod controls the moment. Her voice, which shows its cracks as signs of life not signs of wear, “knows” truths, and has heart.
“The first time I ever saw you, you stirred something deep and wide/ You were wearing a mint green overcoat, and it was beautifully lined inside,” she says in I Hope I Don’t Fall In Love With You, a song about the great love of her life whose imprint on her is through this album. “You had an accent from the motherland, and a mind full of contraband/And when I tried to walk away, I walked into quicksand.”
That said, there’s no room to hide from her gaze in Last Man Standing – the most probing combination of rock, hip hop, agit-pop and grand ‘70s soul – where Harrod asks “whose side are you on?” of more than a few of us, at a time when “all the slaves dance/clap your hands, raise the flag/And all the slaves dance/Stand for the country that you fight for”.
Secondly, Hunter and Harrod’s sonic palette is rich. In Charlie’s Time Is Up, the downtown sax and trombone (Matt Keegan and James Greening) are punchy and pungent; the mix of tension and release-into-agitation in Blinding Light marries synthesised and natural sounds into a kind of blaxsploitation meets Radiohead partnership; but in Until I Hear From You the sound is organic, enveloping and yet almost playful, even before the children’s choir arrives.
Meanwhile, the scattering-pigeons drumming of Evan Mannell in I Hope I Don’t Fall In Love With You provides the first hint of the discombobulating shifts in the funk to come when Hunter and Harrod deploy intercepting strings, flourishes of backing vocals and horny-handed guitar from Cameron Deyell – all providing a slap of early ‘90s Bowie.
Yes, that’s a whole lot of things thrown into the fruit basket as it were. But for Harrod, if life gives you lemons you make …. City Of Longing.
CITY OF LONGING
The Australian, April 21 2018
A line that leaps from the first verse of the opening song could be construed as a mission statement for Tina Harrod’s fifth album. “You wanna taste everything” sums up the artful approach adopted by the Sydney diva and her equally adventurous partner-in-rhyme, co-composer-pianist Stu Hunter, as they boldly straddle and blur the borders between soul, jazz, pop and funk. Dazzlingly innovative arrangements combine with committed performances and pithy relationship themes to produce an edgy and overarching cinematic resonance that strikes a cohesive balance between mainstream and art-house music. Taking their cue from Hunter’s imaginative keyboard injections and cutting-edge direction, an A-team of Australian musicians adds muscular fills to an athletic rhythm platform, while Harrod holds court with pipes that pump like a modern R&B siren one minute and croon like a veteran torch singer the next. Jazzy horns and back-up vocals provide sinew in the snappy Charlie’s Time is Up. Grungy bursts of electric guitar interspersed with manic strings assist in generating tension in the dramatic I Hope I Don’t Fall in Love With You. A school choir combines with string quartet to amp up ambience in Everything Beautiful is Gone, while brass and strings unified with vocal harmony add bite to Until I Hear From You. A reverb-laden wordless motif — reminiscent of Laurie Anderson’s surprise 1981 hit, 0 Superman — punctuates the punchy Last Man Standing. In Red Pill Girl, Harrod’s quirky phrasing is more reminiscent of Joni Mitchell in jazz mode. Trophy Girl has closer ties to early 1960s pop, while Blinding Light is more symphonic in structure. Alternating rhythms make the mercurial Loaded a mesmerising starter to a set of impressive depth and diversity, displaying all the hallmarks of album excellence.
CITY OF LONGING
Sydney Morning Herald, 31 March, 2018
“This is the album Tina Harrod had in her all along. Here there’s no attempt to be something, whether an R&B singer, a jazz singer or anything else. Here she just is …Burning through the dazzling arrangements comes Harrod’s voice, a blowtorch of intensity that can subside to moments of affecting tenderness.” JOHN SHAND
* City of Longing was co-written and produced by brilliant composer /pianist /producer STU HUNTER – who has worked with Passenger, silverchair, Portishead, Alex Lloyd, Delta Goodrem, Russell Crowe, Katie Noonan and many others.
Tina’s fifth album takes her songwriting and mind-blowing vocal skills to another plane. City of Longing is an emotionally charged, soul-wrenching set with real musical depth, performed by creative and adventurous musicians. The songs are delivered with cutting edge production in an aural landscape of cinematic breadth: Stu Hunter’s innovative arrangements are outstanding.
City of Longing draws from the deep well of soul and jazz yet is edgy, unusual, definitely innovative.
Tina is acknowledged as one of Australia’s finest vocalists and she continues to find further seams to mine and depths to plumb within her craft. Her voice is a mature and powerful tool conveying emotions that many of us wouldn’t dare feel. Brace yourself and grab a drink before listening.
Most of the material was co-written with Stu Hunter. Trophy Girl was written with Dave Symes (Boy & Bear, Sarah Blasko, Missy Higgins, The Sleepy Jackson). The title track City of Longing was written with acclaimed jazz pianist Matt McMahon and Until I Hear from You was written with Aron Ottignon another extraordinary jazz pianist, in Paris.
Tina Harrod: “There are songs about relationships, about turmoil in relationships, another about leaving the city … but I’m driven by what I see in politics and the way the world is run and the systems that run it.”
“Stu & my musical relationship is the real glue in this album because we started it together from the ground up. We wanted a cohesive sound and recorded it with the one rhythm section of Dave Symes (bass), Evan Mannell (drums), Stu (keys) and Cameron Deyell from LA on guitar.”
The music draws from the deep well of soul and jazz yet is edgy, unusual, definitely innovative. For a moment you’ll feel a familiar groove but in the next, a jolt from an unexpected twist will drive the song to a darker place or an emotional space you’ve never thought of before.
Review of ‘City of Longing’ Sydney Morning Herald 31 March 2018: “Now she has achieved the exceptional, almost song by song and bar by bar. Alongside her spearing lyrics a huge slice of the credit goes to her chief collaborator, Stu Hunter, one of Australia’s most imaginative and ambitious composers. Their jointly-penned songs defy categorisation and continually jolt the listener with improbable musical leaps – not to be arty for the sake of it, but simply to maximise each song’s potential.” JOHN SHAND
” …urgency was tempered by a quality that too few singers have the courage or capacity to bring to the table: vulnerability. Sometimes it was as though she were holding a magnifying glass above her lyrics and turning heat into fire, whether on the sadness and drama of Blue On the Inside, the searing intensity of Holding On, or the gripping theatricality of Dear Henry.”
John Shand Sydney Morning Herald 2016
“Harrod takes a lot of care with lyrics that speak of the fragility of love and relationships, life on the edge and loss. Her voice fits the moods, ranging from strong and rich to raw and desperate.”
Brad Northington The Australian 2013
“Tina Harrod can sing about love, loss and pain like no other. In baring her soul, both on stage and in her recorded work, she channels personal experience into universal themes that continue to resonate long after the last note has been played.”
“… Harrod in concert as a solo artist … what struck me most powerfully was the aura of authenticity that surrounds her as she sings. Her world feels very real. It’s not a fairytale world of happy ever after, nor a world of melodramatic, overly emotional outpourings. But there is emotion – the sense of a life fully lived, and a willingness to expose the frailties and yearnings of the characters she inhabits onstage.”
The Age 2009
” … the unmistakably kettle-cooked, whiskey-smooth, smoky, velvety, rich, chocolate Harrod stamp. Her perfectly contoured, cultivated and controlled instrument crosses genres.”
Lloyd Bradford Syke Australian Stage 2008
“The album concludes with the ballad Don’t Explain, a tribute to composer Billie Holiday, delivered with consummate timing, an aching understanding of its love-betrayed lyrics, and pitch perfect tonality. This album fixes Tina Harrod’s position as a foremost jazz vocalist who has developed a superb musical combination.”
John McBeath, The Australian 2008
” … her strong contralto leaps into the song with the force of a blow to the abdomen. Itís the power of Nina Simone with the expression of Billie Holiday, yet Harrod’s individuality is never compromised; these past great singers are influences, not models to be copied.”
John McBeath The Australian 2008
“Harrod gives you goosebumps. It’s as if she’s singing about the last night of life, stretching vowels for telling timbral effect and sometimes letting her voice crack like a mirror held up to the soul. She pours herself – every inch, sinew and synapse – into the songs, so the words throb with commitment rather than shudder with pretence.”
John Shand SMH 2008
“There are really only two great Australian soul and R&B singers: Renee Geyer and Tina Harrod. Harrod connects with the song more deeply than ordinary singers.”
Bernard Zuel, Sydney Morning Herald 2008
“Ms Harrod: what a woman – what an upright, down-home, open mouthed powerhouse of a triple A rated instrument she has at her disposal.”
“Tina Harrod has one of those gorgeous vocal instruments, which just oozes soul, sex and sensuality!”
Sydney Morning Herald
“Now Harrod didn’t occupy the stage, she prowled it, staring her audience in the eyes. Where that edginess had made her seem somewhat ill-at-ease before, now it was fully harnessed, and line after line, song after song, crackled with electricity.”
Sydney Morning Herald 2016
“Tina Harrod and her sensational band could help power the electricity grid with performances like this.”
Sydney Morning Herald 2016
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