LaVon Hardison - 1st round winner of KOBE Jazz Competition Off to Japan

Born in Boston, LaVon Hardison's earliest musical roots go back to her childhood Baptist church. She also had formal discipline training in classical/opera with the Boston Lyric Opera, along with dramatic and musical theater, video work, TV, film, and voice-overs. Now based in Olympia, Washington, LaVon works with various musical collaborators with whom she can have deep and often funny musical conversations. A trailblazer in music, LaVon also hosted the weekly radio show "The Jazz Experience" on KAOS-FM.

A rare talent to experience, your breath catches, your heart skips a beat. Looking up, you close your eyes, as your right hand finds its heartbeat and you pledge allegiance to your all-time favorite tune. LaVon Hardison has brought you home as she delivers "your" song's first bars.

At the beginning, you bask in the familiar, offered in a creamy, fulsome tone and an effortless four-octave range, maybe some saucy scat sprinkled in. Regardless, at song's end, likely she'll leave you with a question mark: "That was Some Other Time, but…?" Seconds later your brow un-furrows: "Now I get it!" There is no greater gift a singer gives than an invitation to hear a piece in an insightfully different way. Hardison is generous indeed with those who open their souls to her.
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Come Together is Hardison's third album, but it truly marks a new beginning for the wildly talented Boston-born singer. Building on the jazz interpretations of Choices (2006) and the inspirational bent of Everyday Gifts (2008), this long-awaited recording finds Hardison using her ineffable presence to tie together wonderfully diverse tunes with a first-class group of musicians.

"I was really excited to be able to mix jazz standards with other songs, " Hardison says. "Instead of trying to choose songs from a particular genre, I chose songs that have a melody or meaning that tell a story."

With ease, Hardison erases the boundaries between jazz, funk, and soul, re-inventing well-loved tunes including "(They Long to Be) Close to You, " "Sunny, " and "Tomorrow." She infuses The Beatles' "Come Together" with rhythms that would be at home in New Orleans, and you can hardly imagine anything better than her version of the jazz standard "Better Than Anything."

When Hardison smolderingly implores you to "Unchain My Heart, " you'll gladly comply, if only because you sense her affection for the 1964 Ray Charles version of the song. "Ray Charles is a huge influence for me, " she enthuses. "He managed to do country, R&B, whatever – and he always understood the song and made it his own."

What emanates from Hardison is not merely an admixture of those who came before. It's everything she's done, heard, seen and felt – from her classical training to Sundays mornings in church - plus a huge helping of musicianship, all drawn into her very own musical time machine. The result? An irresistibly distinct take on life and the living of it —from raucous to somber, gleeful to introspective. And joy. There's always, always joy.

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