Vocalist LaVon Hardison has been garnering recognition for her work on stage and in the studio in and around Seattle for several years. Named Jazz Vocalist of the Year in 2017 by Earshot Jazz in Seattle, Hardison 's acclaim is largely relegated to the dynamic and innovative jazz scene in the Pacific Northwest.
With a soulful sound rooted in her upbringing in the Baptist church, Hardison made her mark in theatre, before venturing into jazz stylings. Her strength as a performer is evident in live performance, with a front of the stage persona that captivates her audience, and draws them into her interpretations of jazz, blues, and pop standards.
On her 2018 independent release, There Will Be Trouble, Hardison interprets a selection of songs ranging from Rogers/ Hart to Carole King. While it may seem that rummaging through tunes such as "Sweet Georgia Brown," "My Funny Valentine," and "One Fine Day" is a bit tired and outdated, Hardison manages to arrange and perform them in a fashion that is mostly compelling and original. Along the way, she employs pianist Eric Verlinde to be her artistic foil. Verlinde is an experienced musical director for a number of gospel and blues based singers, including Josephine Howell, and Elnah Jordan.
"My Funny Valentine" would be aptly renamed, "My Funky Valentine" for this interpretation, with Hardison pointedly weaving the melody between the funky backline of bassist Dean Schmidt and drummer Jeff Bush. "Sweet Georgia Brown " is presented like a musical gumbo straight out of New Orleans. The Duke Ellington classic "Mood Indigo" begins with Hardison singing the opening lines accompanied by a clarinet counterpoint provided by Hans Teuber. The feel is more deep south blue than the more suave feel of the Ellington original, and subsequent covers.
The Coffin/King pop standard "One Fine Day" best displays Hardison's exceptional ability to draw a listener in with her blues tinged voice providing a narrative of hope and melancholy. It notably accomplishes her penchant for taking a well-covered standard, and creating an arrangement to definitively make it her own.
There is a concern here, as with most independent releases, that the album will receive little airplay outside of the Seattle area. That would be unfortunate, as Hardison has a delightful presence, powerful and disciplined voice, and special ability to touch her audience with a personal and genuine approach. Pass the word.
My Funny Valentine; Frim Fram Sauce; Should I Stay Or Should I Go; Mood Indigo; Heat Wave; It’s Only A Paper Moon; Firework; The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy); Sweet Georgia Brown; One Fine Day.
LaVon Hardison: vocals; Eric Verlinde, David Deacon Joyner: piano; Hans Teuber: clarinet, saxophone; Jerome Smith: trombone, tuba; Dean Schmidt, Osama Afifi: bass; Jeff Busch: drums.