Sweet Beans and Peace in February

My husband and I recently watched a patient Japanese movie called Sweet Bean directed by Naomi Kawase. It follows the story of Sentaro who, in a small unassuming shop, cooks a snack called dorayaki, a sweet-bean-filled pancake sandwich. He meets a bubbly elder, Tokue, who has mastered the art of making sweet bean paste. Tokue’s charms win the heart of the solitary Sentaro and she immediately  improves his dorayaki with her well loved beans. The film is a meditation on friendship, food, and the unraveling of secrets. Lovely movie.

 

 

 

While the intimate characters and beautifully filmed food touched my heart and stomach, I was also impressed with the concept of a single-product, one-person shop. Sentaro made dorayaki, that is all he made—he poured batter and expertly flipped beautiful cakes. As a nation we thrive on offering as much as possible. Such simplicity might be seen as “a little po'”.

In a culture that celebrates multi-tasking, this kind of simplicity is often viewed as an abyss of dullness and perhaps it is…but how often do we say with a tone of embarrassment, “I can only play guitar,” or “I only know how to make (fill in the blank)” with the expectation that the listener will respond, “Is that all?” What a radical idea to know that that is enough.

The world has expanded its complexity by pi and  much needs to be done and thought to prevent the downward spiral that is trying to assert itself as our new reality. Moments of simplicity may be  the good medicine stones to throw into the pool of life, and allow the ripples to reshape and reorder the coming year.

P. S You  may notice on the calendar, there is a non musical event! I will be one of the readers at Town Hall Seattle Stories of the New Yorker Feb 12th. I will be reading a story by Jamaica Kincaid called Poor Visitor. I’m quite tickled.

Happy New Year 2017!

What a year it has been! On  a personal level it has been a year of great music making! I have met new musicians who inspire me and have sung at some new venues in Seattle and Tacoma and Bellingham. The hubby and I visited New Orleans  and felt like  we touched the original  heartbeat of jazz. We also had the opportunity to go to Japan and experience Kobe Jazz as well as Kobe cuisine. What an amazing year!  I continue to hone the craft of singing and commit myself further to the singing arts. There is so much to learn.
I am filled with gratitude and excitement for the new year to come. What adventures await you in 2017?

Thank you!

Dear Friends,
Thank you so much to coming out and supporting me personally and supporting live music this year. I so appreciate you! You keep me off the streets!
Happiest Holiday Wishes to you and yours!

So Grateful

Today as All Hallows eve is upon us, I am remembering friends, benefactors, and those who have gone before. Those who have passed beyond the veil. There is an African proverb that we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. I believe this phrase includes our familial line as well as those who are a part of of our creative family line. There are musicians and other creatives who have left the planet who have influenced me through their example, their love, and their brilliance.
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So today I think about:
my mom-in-law, who loaned me money for my first CD and attended every performance
my guitarist friend Pat, who schooled me in audio equipment and who gave me my first “good mic”
my fiddle-playing poet friend Barbara, whose sass and style and creativity inspired me
There are others of course, but I write this to invite you to take a minute to remember those who have gone before.  Who introduced you to yourself, who opened doors to new ways of being for you? Celebrate their love and gifts.

On another note, Cuban jazz pianist Jorge Luis Panchecho will be at  jorge-luis-pacheco
Ben Moore’s next November 9th!  I enjoyed performing with my friend
Tyrone Hashimoto a couple of weeks ago at Ben Moore’s and I am looking forward to enjoying  another great evening of music. It will be a real treat! Here is a taste of what you will hear: CLICK HERE
It’s a early show 6:30!

Hope to see you this month!

Be Fabulous!

Boys in the Boat

You can’t help but notice how music is used to motivate us to action. Anyone who visits the gym can’t help but notice how many people have earbuds in their ears. It’s not just a way to keep the world out; using music can be a way to override the whining of the mind when the body does not want to exercise. Music becomes a pleasant distraction from the things that are hard or we don’t want to do. I like to think that every part of lives has a soundtrack-we are literally swimming through it.
Red & Ruby (guitarist Vince Brown and I) were asked by Timberland Public Library to play some of the music that may have surrounded the life of Washington born rower Joe Rantz, who was part of a nine man crew who won the 1936 Berlin Olympics. His story is captured in Daniel James Brown book The Boys in the Band.
While athletes were not wearing headphones in the 1930’s, this young man was surrounded by music and played a lot of music of his time. Joe Rantz sang and played guitar, mandolin and banjo. We will playing some of the tunes that he may have played in celebration of this inspiring book. Check out the Timberland Library page for more info!

 

tyroneshow-hi

I am also excited about my friend Tyrone Hashimoto from Tokyo coming to Olympia! He is a wonderful performer! I will be doing a couple of songs with him and we will be joined Seattle drummer Jeff Busch. This is a special-please make time to join us! Watch Tyrone do his thang here:

 

Hope to see you in October!

Be Fabulous!
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I can’t help it, I think in song. September rolls around and I hear that guitar lick  and horn section of Earth Wind and Fire’s intro to their song September and I do a little happy dance, publicly or discretely depending on the company.  I hope your summer has been spectacular and you are reaping the fruits of relaxation, play and sunshine.

Lots of good music coming up in September, a few shows in Olympia and a few in Seattle, I will be sure to meet you somewhere along the I-5 corridor!
Coming up in September is  my CD release party for my new
CD Come Together.  Friday September 16th @ Traditions Fair Trade Cafe in Olympia 8pm and Saturday September 17th @ North City Bistro in Shoreline 8pm. It was a blast to make the CD and I want to celebrate with you!  Come Together has gotten a few head nods from the general public, radio stations, and reviewers.

“A stylishly eclectic singer, Hardison is an artist for whom the song is king. She’s the type of interpreter who knows how to put across the emotion and subtlety in a melody without overselling it, and she has a talent for getting inside the story that each song tells.”
— Andrew Luthringer, Earshot Jazz (review link)

Aww Shucks!
You can find more press and videos on my newly spiffified website

Coming up this Friday, September 2nd at North City Bistro, I will be singing with my friend Frank Anderson. We will be mixing up some blues
and oldies for a good measure. See poster above for more details!

Reservations to upcoming shows are recommended.

Well, I gotta go, there is soup to be made.
Until next time, do be fabulous!

PS. North City Bistro tonight!

north-city-bistro-poster-sept-3

Happy 4th to you!

Happy Summer to you my friend! Earshot Jazz approached me  and asked me to write a short piece about my Japan musical adventures and I will share the text here. You can see the article in context here
Enjoy! I will be taking a nap in the sunshine!

Hello Kitty.

Sushi.

Bullet Trains.

Sumo.

and love of Jazz.

Yep, Jazz and Japan go together like peanut butter and jelly or tempura and well… more tempura. Since 2000, winners of the Kobe Jazz Vocal Queen Contest have visited Seattle to perform at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley. In 2005, Seattle started its own competition at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley and began to send two American jazz vocalists (one adult and one high school student) to Japan to perform at the Kobe contest. My recent journey to sister city Kobe after winning this year’s Seattle competition was a prize the keeps on giving.

 

When I’m asked what kind of music I perform and I mention jazz, I’m often met with a slight air of incomprehension followed by small talk about the hors d’oeuvres. I do what I do because it feeds my soul, but too many of those exchanges can promote buds of cynicism. The opportunity to be a part of this cultural exchange was incredibly affirming.

High-school winner Christina Buno and I performed at the Kobe Jazz Vocal Queen Contest, where ten Japanese singers were competing for a trip to the US to perform at Dimitriou’s in September. The singers were skilled and enthusiastic about the art form. They also appreciated the previous winners, some of whom have reached celebrity status. I was asked often, “Do you know Greta Matassa?” While I live in Olympia, I was proud to represent Seattle and its rich jazz history.

The love of jazz in Kobe is so apparent by the numerous tiny jazz clubs that we can we came across during explorations. Clubs with names such as Great Blue, Bar Martini, Basin Street, Green Dolphin, and Alfie peppered the urban landscape. And it wasn’t just Kobe; I also had the chance to sing at tiny clubs in Osaka and Tokyo. Each venue had its own unique flavor, and enthusiastic (if small) audiences.

 

To hear a Nina Simone song or Ella song sung in such a different place was so affirming and made me proud to be a part of this jazz tradition. As I was interviewed by the mistress of ceremonies after singing in Kobe, I became acutely aware that this music belongs to everyone but that being an African American it is in my blood, and it is a part of my experience. I was and am enormously proud and honored to be a part of such a uniquely American tradition.

The Wide, Wide World…

Recently as I was getting into my car which was parked in the garage, I noticed a yellow poppy that had found a little gap in the wall and squeezed its bright head through a parted shingle to explore the darkness of the garage. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least. It’s adventurous spirit seemed to mirror what I have been up to in the last month. My journey has been, like the poppy, surprising and expansive.
A week ago, I returned from Japan. I went to Kobe with high school student Kristina Buno as ambassadors of Seattle.  In April, I won  the Kobe /Seattle Sister competition at Dimetrious Jazz Alley along with Khristina who won the high school division.

With our wonderful organizer Yumi! She translated, got us to the right places at the right time and made sure we were fed! We love Yumi!

On May 3rd, we boarded a plane for the 13 hour flight to  Kobe Japan beginning our four day stay. Upon our arrival we had a day to rest, which was  very welcome. It was a long flight which was made better with warm towels to refresh the hands and face and an ice cream break 5 hours into the flight. It was just an ice cream  sandwich but somehow eaten during such a long flight made it a refreshing experience.
Saturday we rehearsed with the  fine Japanese trio who were playing for the evening-piano, bass and drums.  While waiting for our turn to rehearse we were able listen to  a few of the Japanese singers who were competing for the opportunity to to sing at Dimetrious Jazz Alley in September.

It was  so very inspiring to see that this American born art form is finding new cultural foot holds.  To be with musicians who  love jazz made my musical heart happy. As I listened to the singers rehearsing, I wondered if  our jazz forefathers and mothers dreamt that their work would  reach so far across the globe. Would  they have had any idea that their musical contributions would be so appreciated and valued far from American soil?

Kristina and I were finished with competing when we left Seattle, our role was  to be an ambassador and to accept the gracious hospitality that we were being showered with.  The competition was similar to that of Seattle-several  adult singers had 10 minutes to share their songs in front of an audience and were judged by 5 judges. Unlike Seattle where the judges conferred privately and did not interact with the singers, the judges in Kobe gave instant feedback at the conclusion of each singer, much like the TV show The Voice.
Kristina and I were the “halftime show” singing at the half way point of the evening. At the conclusion of our individual performances we were interviewed by the mistress of ceremonies with the help of a translator.

Of course there is more to this travel tale, but I cannot possibly describe all of the wonderful gifts of music and insights that this trip gave me in one installation. More to come!

On another note…
My new CD “Come Together” is going out into the world and making new connections and friends. It is being played in several college and community radio stations across the country.  From a recent report the CD has some light play in parts of Europe. Who would have thunk? CD’s are like children, they are birthed and you hope that they will go out in the world and do great things. Who knows what they will become when they grow up?

Save this date…
One more thing! The official CD release party for “Come Together” will be at Tradition’s Cafe 9/16/16  and at North City Bistro Seattle 9/17/16. Save those dates!

I hope this note finds you happy, healthy and wise. Thank you for your support and love! In the meantime, please continue to be fabulous!

Japan, here I come…really!

Hello Kitty.
Anime.
Sushi.
Bullet Trains.
Robotics.
Baseball.
Sumo.
and love of Jazz.
Yep, Jazz and Japan go together like peanut butter and jelly or tempura and more tempura. And the cool thing is that I get to go and experience all of the above first hand this month. In a few days I will be in Kobe Japan. While many know Kobe as the land of delicious beef, few know that it is a jazz hot spot.
Kobe and Seattle are sister cities and have nurtured that relationship thru a musical exchange. Since 2000 winners of the Kobe Jazz Vocalist  Contest held in Kobe have visited Seattle to perform at Dimitrious Jazz Alley. In 2005  Seattle through a competition at Dimitrious Jazz Alley  began to send an American jazz vocalist (1 adult and 1 high school student) to Kobe to perform at the contest. It has been fruitful and still continues and
high school student Kristina Buno and myself will be going to Kobe.

I hope to share some of my discoveries and adventures with you. If you are not on FB you might want to friend me because I will be sharing pictures and such. (http://www.facebook.com/LaVonHardison )
I have a feeling that the associative list above will expand and grow and I would love to tell you about it!
In the meantime, enjoy the new buds of spring
and always continue to be fabulous!

Upcoming shows
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Sunday May 22nd 7pm
with guitarist Vince Brown
McMenamin’s Edgefield Winery
2126 Southwest Halsey Street
Troutdale, OR 97060
(503) 665-2992—————————————————————–

Thursday May 26 9pm
piano- Randy Halberstadt, bass,-Osama Afifi, drums-Jeff Busch
Vito’s Seattle

927 9th Ave,
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 397-4053
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