LaVon Hardison makes songs her own on new CD ‘There Will Be Trouble’

Olympia jazz singer LaVon Hardison will launch a new CD with a show Monday at Rhythm and Rye in Olympia.
Olympia jazz singer LaVon Hardison will launch a new CD with a show Monday at Rhythm and Rye in Olympia. Courtesy of LaVon Hardison

Olympia jazz singer LaVon Hardison’s “There Will Be Trouble” takes its title from The Clash’s classic “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” transformed on the album into a feminist anthem.

And if that surprises you, wait until you read about the rest of the disc, which Hardison will celebrate with a CD release show Monday at Rhythm and Rye in Olympia.

Hardison, Earshot Jazz’s 2017 Northwest Vocalist of the Year, also brings Katy Perry’s “Firework” down to earth.

“A good song is a good song,” Hardison told The Olympian. She heard “Firework” online and it caught her by surprise, too, when she really listened to the words.

“It was in a poppy, sunny kind of setting, but what I was hearing was just a little bit different,” Hardison said. “She couldn’t have put it on the charts singing it slowly or singing it introspectively. That’s not what our culture wants right now. They want to dance.”

Hardison’s 7-minute-plus version is slow, serious and even sad, and her vocal emphasis transforms it into a different song, especially in the verses. If it’s playing in the background, you might suddenly be startled to recognize it when the chorus begins.

“There Will Be Trouble” does include jazz standards — a jaunty “Paper Moon,” for one — but it’s dominated by such genre-benders as Simon & Garfunkel’s 1966 “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” and “One Fine Day,” popularized in 1963 by The Chiffons.

The latter choice was inspired by her experience with the tune when she performed in Harlequin Productions’ 2009 retro musical revue “Sixties Chicks.”

“When you do theater and you sing something many, many nights, it changes,” she said. “I started to listen to the words, and they were kind of tragic. They weren’t upbeat and sunny. They were very sad and defiant and yearning.”

Defiant in a completely different way is the Clash tune that gave the disc its name.

Why “Trouble”? It’s a metaphor for the state of the world, according to the press release for the album, and music can be a solution.

“Trouble is change,” Hardison said. “I would hope that a song would cause some kind of positive change. … It doesn’t necessarily have to mean bad trouble, but it does mean a shaking up.”

One thing she’s helping to shake up is the Northwest jazz scene. She sees the new album, a follow-up to her eclectic 2016 “Come Together,” as part of a larger movement in jazz.

“Jazz is changing,” she said. “Jazz is expanding, so you are going to start hearing hip-hop and you are going to start hearing all kinds of other influences.

“It feels like a very natural progression,” she said. “If a song is telling a story — if it’s telling something true about the human condition — then it could be jazz, it could be rock, it could be anything.”

Hardison’s career is expanding, too. She’s working a lot in Seattle these days and achieved a new level of recognition in April, when she won the prestigious Earshot Jazz honor.

“She’s a multi-talented entertainer who simply lights up a room, raising the roof and bringing down the house,” Andrew Luthringer wrote in a December 2017 Earshot profile. “Hardison has brashness and sass when she needs it, but a warm sense of connection is her secret weapon.”

Earshot winners are chosen by voters — both pros and fans.

“It really means a lot to me,” she said. “It’s nice to be included in the great sea of jazz.”

She hasn’t seen a career boost from the win, but the recognition itself feels like an affirmation.

“It’s like that great Sly and the Family Stone song, ‘Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin,’ ” she said. “It’s that kind of recognition. You’re able to be yourself, and people say ‘That’s OK.’

“I’ve been working hard to not be myself for many years,” she added, laughing.

LaVon Hardison

  • What: Hardison, Earshot Jazz’s 2017 Northwest Vocalist of the Year, celebrates the release of her eclectic covers collection “There Will Be Trouble.” With her will be drummer Jeff Busch, bassist Dean Schmidt, horn player Jerome Smith and pianist Eric Verlinde.

  • When: 8 p.m. Monday

  • Where: Rhythm & Rye, 311 Capitol Way N., Olympia

  • Tickets: $5-$25 donation suggested

  • More information: 360-705-0760, lavonhardison.com

  • In Tacoma: Hardison and her quartet will sing as part of the Marine View Presbyterian Church’s Jazz Live series. The free concert is from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 11 at the church, 8469 Eastside Drive NE, Tacoma.