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Julie Hardy at The Jazz Standard

Budd Kopman By

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Julie Hardy at The Jazz Standard
The Jazz Standard
New York City, New York
October 16, 2007

This gig was partly a CD release party for vocalist/composer Julie Hardy's new release The Wish and partly a label party for drummer Kendrick Scott's artist collective label World Culture Music, on which it was released. Scott himself played drums (as he did on Hardy's record) as did guitarist Mike Moreno (instead of Ben Monder from the record), whose latest release Between The Lines is also on the label.

Ably supported by saxophonist John Ellis (who played on Moreno's record), pianist Randy Ingram and bassist Matt Clohesy, besides Moreno and Kendrick, Hardy commanded the stage with a presence that was a mixture of sweet innocence and no-nonsense musicianship.

Hardy's voice is extremely pure, centered and crystalline, and she uses a simple style that relies on her sureness of pitch. When singing standards, she does not get into histrionics but nevertheless communicates the song's emotional content while coming across as open, vulnerable and in touch with both the song and the audience. Indeed, Hardy seems to have a predilection for love songs: the set included "I Wish I Knew," "All Or Nothing At All," "I Fall In Love Too Easily" and Rodgers and Hammerstein's slightly less torchy "We Kiss In A Shadow."

Thus far, Hardy sounds like any well-trained vocalist who has spent the time and effort to go beyond singing and into communicating the emotional depths of the song at hand. Admittedly, the field is extremely crowded, and despite the very good performance, standing out from the crowd will take something more.

That something else is Hardy's compositional and arranging talent, and it is not for nothing that she won the 2006 ASCAP Young Jazz Composer's Award for "Turning Back," from her first album A Moment's Glance (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2005).

The high point of the set centered around another torch song, "Meaning Of The Blues," which was introduced by and merged with an extended version of the Hardy composition "A Lover's Call," plus a second original, "On The Verge" (which is part 1 of a three-part suite on the record), on which Hardy vocalizes without words.

It was during these selections that Hardy the musician separated from Hardy the singer. This music was lush, many-layered, harmonically complex, dynamic and practically embraced the audience. Scott and Clohesy created a rhythmic base that was simultaneously sensual and driving, while Ingram and Moreno's accompaniments filled the spaces between as Hardy's vocalese (not scatting) soared over, around and through the cloud, piercing it with its clarity.

The arrangements managed tension and release expertly: instead of the usual head-solo(s)-head we heard drama and storytelling play out over time, with the solos becoming the release points. These were compositions and not just tunes to blow on, and this is where I think she will make her mark.

Hardy is an extremely talented musician who has a natural ability to communicate not just through the words of a song but also through her music, and is surely someone to watch.

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