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
——————————————————————–

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
———————————————————————-

 

 

Japan, Here I Come

I love spring in the Northwest. The slightest hint of sunshine causes folks in these parts to remove any clothing that would get in the way of experiencing the elusive elixir of free vitamin D.  The earth erupts with crocus and daffodil as well as weeds and the very air is a fuel for promise and new possibilities. That was how March felt for me this year. That new sun felt good.

March was made even more tasty this year by new travels to come. Monday, March 28th I participated in the Seattle-Kobe Female Jazz Vocalist Audition at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley in Seattle. The evening gave 4 high school students and 6 adults the opportunity to  take the stage for 12 minutes and do their stuff.  There was a full house of family and friends cheering on participants as well jazz well wishers. The audition participants were all talented, beautiful, creative and sassy in their own individual way-it was really  an honor to be in this wonderful and historic venue. with the future and the present manifestations of jazz.

Personally, it was such a thrill to be on that stage, even it was for 12 minutes! The mood of the audience was warm, the sound was great and I felt like I was standing on the shoulders of musical ancestors. I was acutely aware that some great singers had graced this stage, and I had to the opportunity to shuffle around in their dust.

I am very humbled and grateful to announce that I will be going to Kobe Japan to represent Seattle in May. I will be performing for 18 minutes while the Kobe judges deliberate on the Japanese singer who will come to the US to perform.


I will keep you posted about Japan and probably post photos and updates on Instagram and Facebook.
Thank you so much for your support!

 

 

 

 

Growth Happens!

I recently came across the obituary of Sr. Nirmala Joshi who died in the spring of 2015. She was the the nun who replaced Mother Teresa as head of the Missionaries of Charity. Reading her brief obituary, I was intrigued as to what Sr Nirmala must have felt stepping into the enormous shoes of Mother Teresa whose works with the poor and dying made her worthy saint material.
While I know few details of how Sr Nimala was chosen for her new task, the article mentioned that 6 months before Mother Teresa’s death Sr Nirmala was given this new assignment. Talk about a hard act to follow! Can you imagine the voices of doubt, real or imaginary that she had to contend with? Being human, I suspect that she must have had an intimate relationship with her own fight or flight response.
Living a creative life, whether cooking a divine meal, painting a love affirming mural, or wrestling with bronze to give it the illusion of flight requires a willingness to change shoes…constantly upgrading our response ability. Sometimes external circumstance forces expansion, but when we are truly listening and if we are honest with ourselves we feel the nudge of our own inner spring, don’t we? We know when the soil of our day to day life is packing a little too tightly around our roots and the only response is to spread out or grow up and out regardless of whether it is convenient or not.
Spring often brings little prickles of discontent, nudging us to move into something new or unexpected. Every season spring reminds us that “growth happens”, in all of its sloppy, uneven and eye-rollingly humbling ways. May you wear your growth well and may your shoes never fit.

New CD and lessons!

 

 

LaVonHardison-ComeTogether-front

Cover Art by Jeff Busch/ Design by Scott Stevens

 

Well last week we sent my newest CD “Come Together” to Nyberg Mastering in Seattle. Please don’t ask me to explain the science of mastering, but know that it makes the CD sound really cool! The process softens the audio rough spots and brings more to the forefront the whorls and designs of your sound.

This particular sound baby has been incubating since July of last year and will be available on Bandcamp really soon. I am a little giddy about it to say the least! Not just giddy for the sounds to share with you but giddy with the lessons learned while planning, recording, editing and figuring out how to do this. Strangely the lessons learned on this project can be applied to any part of this life journey; but good lessons are like that, they are very versatile as well as carrying a strong sense of deja vu.

So here is my top 5 list of what I learned while making this CD. It could easily be longer but as the youtube celeb Kimberly “Sweet Brown “Wilkins said “ain’t nobody got time for that”!

Number 5-Unfolding vs whip-cracking scheduling

Calendars are very helpful, so are deadlines but sometimes deadlines are approximate. Creative ideas unfold in their own time and “life happens”! Flexibility and open mindedness are welcome at any party.

Number 4- Say no to perfectionism

Perfectionism is exhausting and such an energy suck. The goal of the CD is to share with the you (the listener) a moment; it is a journal entry for that day. Of course the final project could be different or…better, but note to self: just enjoy the moment.

Number 3-Trust others who are experts at what they do.

I am very fortunate to work with people who know how to play their instruments well, navigate their recording console ease fully and know how and what to listen for. I know how to sing and sometimes I know how to listen. There are moments though, when I don’t know how to do either and wise counsel or a new perspective is a breath of fresh air. Did I mention that I work with some great musicians? Did I mention that the recording engineer that I worked with rocked?

Number 2-Patience, Patience, Patience.

There were times in the process when I wanted my dessert now! I wanted to just “hurry up and get it done, dammit”. But I know from experience there are few things things that benefit from that attitude, and patience is usually the best response.

Number 1-This CD is a “we” not a “me”

You might have noticed that I started this post with the words “…we sent the CD out….” I am very fortunate to have a wonderful husband who helps me with many of my musical endeavors. He is the guy who drives me to gigs, posts pictures on FB, proofreads posts, designs and maintains my website, talks me off ledges, develops marketing material, and is the best cheerleader/partner that a gal can have!

And finally, thank you for your support faithful reader. If you are getting this email you are someone who has come to shows, bought CDs and supported my endeavor for world domination through scat (smile). Thank you for your encouragement and support, I hope you like the CD.

Making Peace with Time

Ahh, the New Year. Thus begins again our eternal courtship with time. As a new January rolls around, I gussy myself up with new goals and spit-polish my new intentions. Honestly, by the time I have stopped habitually writing the previous year on every document that requires my signature, it is no longer January. My proposal to go steady with the new year becomes a rather belated inquiry : “ 2016, would you be my valentine?” The current year shrugs a little as if to say, “sure I’m game” and I confidently post on Facebook that I am “in a relationship.”

Like most people during the holiday season I was battling. I seemed to be in a constant tug of war with time and “to do” lists. Perhaps you have had this problem? The list of things to be done “mysteriously” gets longer and time is no longer loping along but behaves like one of the mean girls from grade school. Fighting with time is a terrible pastime. Exhausted by the end of December, I realized that something needed to change. 2016 needs to be seen, acknowledged, and appreciated unconditionally of whether she is instrumental in crossing off things on my “to do” list.

The thing about time, is that when I am into what I am doing rather than into “to-doing,” time is a leisurely companion. This weekend as I was frolicking in the snow with family, attempting to learn how to snow-skate, Time whispered, “this is what I want.”

Now, it took me a moment because what was happening was me standing on the snow skate moving at a speed that felt like 50 kilometer per hour but was actually better measured in centimeters per hour. Also, there was some falling down. Repeatedly. Winter aerobics: stand up, tip over, and fall. So I was puzzled when Time said, “this is what I want.” The conversation went a little like this:

Me: Yeah but, wait til I figure out how to do this and…

Time: no that’s not…

Me: I mean right now, it’s not that great because I don’t know what the heck I’m doing, but…

Time: no I mean…oh please do be quiet. Would you like to know what I want?

Me: (rather resentfully) ok

Time: I want this (pointing at my snow covered self). I like it when you just fall and try and dust off and laugh and fall and fail and not try to conquer me.

Me: Huh?

I will leave out the rest because time used a lot of expletives and rolled her eyes in exasperation, but the general gist was that Time does not appreciate being conquered. Time just wants to be present, and included equally in all the activities.

Wishing you a Happy New Year! What are you going to do with your full year of time?

May All Be Well with You!

December and January are the chestnuts roasting, champagne toasting months! At its best it is a time of celebration, gratitude and gift giving. At its worst it is a time of emotional over-stimulation, consumption, and materialism. While I may often swerve and stumble between the two extremes, I find my mental rest in the latter. In lieu of New Year Resolutions, I tend toward meditating on the gifts of the closing year — and there have been many. I  am grateful to all of the venues in which I have performed this year: Harlequin Theatre, La Gitana Pizzaria, Swing Wine Bar,  PLU Jazz Under the Stars,  North City Bistro, Mcmenamin’s Troutdale, Shuga Jazz Bistro … just to name a few. Thank you to those venues who support live music, who understand that a good meal tastes better with good music.
Thank you to those of you who came out and continue to come out to support live music. The pull of sofa entropy is great and the lure of channel and web page surfing is hard to resist. If you made it out of that gravitational pull, bless you! I and my fellow musicians hope that we did right by you!
And lastly, I am so fortunate to work with some wonderful folks, fellow musicians who get giddy about sound. Aural playmates who made the work of making music a pleasure.
So I suppose I put the cart in front of horse and chose to “toast” before “roasting” but it seems to fit. So just as I have had the opportunity to raise my glass to the joys of this closing year, I pray that you may do the same. May remembrance of your “thank you’s”  make the wine of this life sweeter and may your cup be full and overflowing!
May your holiday be joyous,
and I will see you in 2016!