Jo Lawry’s debut album I Want to Be Happy was released in 2008 to rave reviews and named among the “Best CDs of the Decade” in Downbeat Magazine. In addition to working with her own quintet, Jo is the vocalist for the Fred Hersch Pocket Orchestra, a quartet whose album, Live at Jazz Standard was released on Sunnyside Records. Jo was also a founding member of the Irish/Brazilian/Jazz quartet, James Shipp’s Nos Novo, providing lead vocals, fiddle, mandolin, and melodica. This group’s debut CD Strange Sweethearts in America was described by the New York Times as “a striking new album… which advances a jazz-based take on traditional Celtic music.” Jo has been featured as a guest on numerous modern jazz recordings; stand-outs include Dr. Lonnie Smith’s album Rise Up! and Kate McGarry’s Grammy-nominated If Less is More… Nothing is Everything.
Jo has also become well-known to audiences beyond the jazz genre through her work with Sting, and more recently, Paul Simon. She first joined Sting in 2009 as a backing vocalist for the filming of his live concert DVD A Winter’s Night… Live From Durham Cathedral. Following this project, Jo was invited to join Sting as sole female vocalist on his international orchestral tour, Symphonicities, (2010-2011). This tour was followed in 2011 by the Back to Bass tour on which Jo also played violin (2011-2013). During these two world tours, Jo has performed at venues ranging from The Met (New York), Royal Albert Hall (London), The Hollywood Bowl (Los Angeles) and Sydney Opera house to The Kremlin (Moscow) and Piazza San Marco (Venice). Jo has featured prominently on all Sting albums and DVDs released since she joined his band, including the 2011 Grammy-nominated box set, 25 Years, and the Live in Berlin DVD. Most recently, Jo was featured on The Last Ship, Sting’s first release of new original material in over a decade, several songs of which Jo had a hand in writing. Currently she is touring with Sting and Paul Simon on their North-American double-bill tour.
Jo grew up on an almond farm in South Australia and, after a brief affair with operatic study, began her instruction in the Jazz Department at Adelaide University’s Elder Conservatorium. Jo has received many honors including the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship for study in the United States to complete her Masters degree in Jazz Performance (2003). She was a semifinalist in the 2004 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, and she won second place in Australia’s National Jazz Awards in 2005. In 2006 Jo commenced her studies at New England Conservatory for a Doctor of Musical Arts in Jazz Performance. In 2008 she was selected by Carnegie Hall to participate in a week-long collaboration with emerging vocalists from all over the world, led by Bobby McFerrin. Her relationship with Carnegie Hall continued in 2010 to 2012 as a featured artist in their Musical Connections pilot program. From 2003 to 2010, Jo was also Artist-in-Residence at the United States Embassy of Australia.
Jo currently lives in New York, where she leads her own band, with whom she plays her own songs, along with a selection of covers and jazz standards. She appears regularly at NYC clubs from Birdland to Joe’s Pub, as well as internationally, and her shows are a recurring “Critic’s Pick” for Time Out New York, who proclaimed that “Australian vocalist Jo Lawry numbers among our favorite discoveries of the past year.” Her new album will be released mid-2014, and features a duet with Sting on Jo’s own song, “Impossible.”