by Constance Tucker
Hot, spicy and oh so groovin’ yes I am speaking about vocalist LaVon Hardison, a full package, panache, grit and rhythm to spare. This is Hardison’s third album as a leader and Come Together is an amalgamation of the many versatilities Hardison exhibits as a skilled vocalist and interpreter.
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.
Come Together sports a throwback to the best of the 70s, when song writing was strong and had a true musical poignancy; no wonder jazz vocalists are latching onto these wonderful gems. Hardison’s voice is deep, commanding, and she never drops out of voice, even on the lowest notes. Her sense of rhythm is on point and engaging, and her arrangements of these well-known tunes have been evidently re-imagined into her own statement, a must when covering tunes made popular by such luminary artists as contained within this offering. A highlight for me was the title track “Come Together,” it had a nice romp appeal, fashionable – yet solid enough to appeal to multi-generations. Hardison delivers the tune with aplomb and sincere conviction, there is no doubt after three albums she has truly discovered her energy and focus as a vocalist.
Stepping back into the mix, “Sunny” is a delightfully sleek listen. Hardison conveys the Bobby Hebb tune with eloquence and befittingly pays homage to Hebb’s essence of the lyric. Taken at a slower pace, bassist Osama Afifi lays down a groove that grooves, while Hardison creates a slow burn with each lyric honey dripping from her lips, her soulfulness shines on this track like a beacon.
“They Long To Be Close To You” is given a slow funk feel and Hardison elongates each note, while pianist David Joyner, creates well-placed ornamentation and interest under Hardison. All throughout each track drummer Jeff Busch creates a solid foundation for the entire ensemble to propel upon, but he also creates varied textures that help add to the depth of each cut, and his interaction with each player is immediately evident.
Come Together is befittingly titled, it is not just a vocalist backed by a band recording, this IS a sincere group effort where the overall equation of the sound is that of trust and expansion of ideas, a well-conceived junior effort, by a stirring vocalist. Highly recommended!