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Pianist / Vocalist Maggie Herron Releases 'My Story In Song' On February 7, 2023


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Herron enlists the backing of a host of musicians across the globe to fill up the leftover spaces of her aching heart and extend the value of that voice, a throaty, willowy wonder on the verge of shattering—or gathering strength.
—Carol Banks Weber (Coggie)
A Hawaii Institution for More Than Four decades, Award-Winning Jazz Vocalist, Pianist and Songwriter Maggie Herron Releases Her Most Revelatory Album with My Story In Song.
A polished and prolific singer/songwriter who has often mined her eventful life for material, Maggie Herron is no stranger to self-revealing recordings. With her seventh album, My Story In Song, the Hawaii-based jazz pianist has created her most personal and ambitious project yet. Slated for release on February 7, 2023 on her Herron Song Records, the album features a program of new material delivered with her trademark wit and emotional transparency. Sounding more pleasingly husky than ever and phrasing with rhythmic acuity, she delivers a beguiling set of melodies while wearing her heart on her sleeve.

In many ways My Story In Song is a companion piece to her last album, 2020’s Your Refrain, which earned Herron her fifth Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Jazz Album Of The Year (Hawaii’s premier music awards). Like that project, the new album features songs composed with her daughter, lyricist Dawn Herron, whose tragic 2020 death in a bicycle accident led Maggie to complete several pieces long in the works. Recording remotely with bassist David Scott Enos, drummer John Ferraro, and a far-flung cast of jazz masters in Los Angeles and New York City, she and engineer Paul Tavenner put the tracks together throughout 2021-22, weaving together contributions by artists such as pianists Bill Cunliffe, Romain Collin and Mitch Forman, guitarists Grant Geissman, John Storie and Larry Koonse, bassist Darek Oles, and saxophonist/flutist Bob Sheppard. The result is an enthralling collection of songs that covers an array of moods and textures while centering on an unimaginable loss.

The album’s emotional core rests on two songs that Herron wrote in response to Dawn’s passing. “Density” is an aching but becalmed meditation on grief and loss featuring exquisite accompaniment by French-born pianist Romain Collin and Bob Sheppard. And “Modern Day Angel” is a gospel-powered celebration of Dawn with vocal arrangement by Take 6’s Mark Kibble and horn charts by Andrew Neu. “She touched many lives,” Maggie said. “And as the song took shape it brought to mind other notable women who were humanitarians and inspiring.”

The mother-and-daughter team covers a lot of ground, from the gently sublime “Sweet Lullaby,” which features another luscious Kibble vocal arrangement, to the rollicking, horn-powered “Devil’s In the Details,” a song that would have fit snuggly in the Ray Charles songbook. “When I listen to the album the music has an undertone of gravitas,” Herron says. “I’ve written some cheeky blues tunes but Dawn was really the one who brought the levity. She was naturally a more fun person than I ever was. She was a comedian, and for years part of a comedy ensemble group.” Herron’s songs tend toward moody and disquieting territory, like the rueful “Along Too Long,” which sounds like a forgotten Irving Berlin ballad. She’s joined by an ace LA crew on her two noir-tinged pieces, “No More Regrets” with pianist Bill Cunliffe, guitarist Grant Geissman, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Dan Schnelle, and “The Big Seduction,” a cautionary tale of Tinseltown’s deceptive allure, which adds Bob Sheppard and trumpeter Kye Palmer into the mix. Herron includes three songs from outside the family.

The gorgeous version of “Dawn,” written by the great Mexican-born jazz vocalist, Magos Herrera, feels like it could have been written for Dawn Herron. Herron’s swaggering take on the classic blues “Never Make Your Move Too Soon” rides on a stream of brass, courtesy of Palmer and Sheppard. She closes the album with an exquisite rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. While the song is occasionally deployed for cheap profundity and unearned sentiment, in Herron’s hands “Hallelujah’s” abject plea rings true, with her voice cushioned and buoyed by Duane Padilla’s austere string arrangement. Love, loss, grief and release, My Story In Song offers a portrait of an artist in full.

About Maggie Herron

Music has been a constant companion for Herron almost since she could walk. Born the ninth of 12 children in Muskegon, Michigan, she was something of a prodigy, performing Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 2" with the Muskegon Symphony Orchestra at 13. A scholarship to Interlochen Center for the Arts that she earned at 14 meant that Herron’s high school years were filled with music. She continued her classical studies in piano and voice, performing in recitals and concerts, talent shows and musical theater productions, but feeling stifled by her conservative family and longing for freedom she hit the road with her boyfriend after graduation in 1969. Dawn was born during these adventures and Herron hitchhiked across the country more than a few times with her infant riding in her carrier backpack. In many ways they grew up together and were best friends and soul mates.

She eventually settled near Washington’s Olympic National Rainforest on a small commune, where she found herself longing for a piano. Her wish was fulfilled by some local loggers who used to hang out around commune’s grounds. One day they showed up and delivered a piano in the back of a pickup truck. With her intensive classical training it made perfect sense to Herron to play a Chopin etude for her comrades. The response was shock and then curiosity as “someone said, ‘That was cool. Can you play any Grateful Dead?’” Herron recalls. She’d grown up hearing her older siblings playing Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole records, and was largely unfamiliar with the rock and pop hits of the day. With her well-trained ear she quickly started playing tunes she picked up from the radio, “and then everybody liked me a lot better.”

By 1972 Herron had moved to Seattle and landed her first gig at the Tiki Hut in Lynnwood. She borrowed contemporary albums from friends, records by Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and James Taylor. “I’d intersperse their songs with Beethoven and Bach, but eventually the manager told me ‘You’ve gotta stop playing that classical shit,” Herron says. Bill Evans turned her ear toward jazz, and by the time she moved to Hawaii in 1976 she was on the lookout for musicians to learn from and work with.

Her son, Farren, was born in 1977, and with two kids to raise she didn’t have the luxury of studying jazz formally. Instilled with a hustle ethic from childhood (“My mom would said, ‘If you’re going to take music lessons, you’ve got to make money at it,’” Herron recalls), she never stopped performing, which given her residence in paradise suited her just fine. “Over my life I’ve played thousands of gigs,” she says. “Touring never appealed to me. Performing was hard enough while raising the kids. I wanted to stay in a place I love where I could hike and swim and garden. Luckily, I’ve always had gigs and supported myself as a musician.” A little luck, and a lot of work and focus kept her busy.

By the time she released her debut album, 2011’s In the Wings, Herron was a polished songwriter with an extensive book of original pieces. Produced by bass virtuoso Brian Bromberg, her 2014 release, Good Thing, won the 2015 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Jazz Album of the Year. Ace Los Angeles pianist Bill Cunliffe, first met Herron at her steady gig in a jazz bar, Lewers Lounge, in Waikiki. Bill co-produced and played on the 2017’s Nā Hōkū Hanohano Jazz Album of the Year Award-winning project Between the Music and the Moon, which also features LA jazz and studio masters Bob Sheppard, Grant Geissman and Alex Acuña. Herron followed up with 2018’s acclaimed A Ton of Trouble and 2019’s standards session Renditions, which both won the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Jazz Album of the Year Awards and reconfirmed Herron’s status as a leading jazz force in Hawaii. My Story In Song offers a deeper look at an artist who keeps growing while facing life’s most challenging vicissitudes. It’s a work for the ages.

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