In some ways creating Julie Hardy's debut CD A Moment's Glance has been a lot like riding a bicycle built for two. Teaming up with boyfriend Randy Ingram a superb pianist Hardy's smooth Jazz vocals, original compositions and improvisations have made a statement that she is here to stay.
A Moment's Glance is an elegant album that combines an element of romance and a hint of seductiveness. This New York City based twenty-eight year old uses lush harmonies to reinterpret Beatles' song "And I Love Her".
The careers of Jazz artists tend to develop more slowly than their cousins in the rock and pop genres. That being said Hardy has already attracted the attention of the Jazz world with invitations to the Jazz Academy Snowmass in 2002. This prestigious invitation was extended after she submitted two songs for consideration. Hardy was one of only two American vocalists to whom an invitation was given. Students come from schools such as Juilliard and Berklee. She followed this achievement with the 2003 invitation to attend the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC. Jazz Ahead is billed as identifying outstanding emerging Jazz artists still in their teens or mid twenties and bringing them under the tutelage of some of the music industry's most renowned gurus.
In July 2005 Hardy performed at the Tommy Gallant Seacoast Jazz Festival in New Hampshire and as September dawned she worked her magic at New York's Lincoln Centre.
Last year she officially released A Moment's Glance at New York's Jazz Standard and counts it among her favorite venues in which she has performed. "When I got to do the Jazz Standard I felt like I was in a little over my head. The Jazz Standard is a pretty big deal in New York. When I got on stage I still felt like I wasn't quite prepared for that experience. I think definitely I gained a lot of experience performing at the Jazz Standard."
While still attending the University of New Hampshire she was already directing the Jazz Choir. She also has an upcoming engagement as a judge at a music competition being staged by her old high school in New Hampshire. "It makes me feel like they think I know what I am doing," she says noting that she appreciates the recognition.
Julie describes her music as, "It is modern Jazz because the chords are more forward thinking similar to pianists such as Fred Hersch. I am more influenced by people who are here and now and composing today."
Her former teacher the highly respected Dominique Eade says, "Julie has a soulful and penetrating sound. Her musicianship is remarkable and you'll hear it reflected in her impressive writing, her innovative improvisation and her lovely interpretation."
Hardy has enjoyed great success in modernizing standards with new arrangements. She says, "I will re-harmonize the chord changes or I will substitute changes. I will put in a different time signature. I will add measures or take them out. I will add grooves. For instance with "Alright With Me" I made it more of an Afro Cuban Latin feel. When I do the arranging I try to respect the composer. I hope that people can still hear the story and understand the story. I don't want the arrangement to get in the way of that. If I add a bar or change something harmonically there is a reason for that and it comes straight from the lyrics. It's not just because I thought it would sound cool. There was a reason why I did what I did."
I asked Hardy if she considered it a wee bit daunting to interpret songs that are considered standards or classic tunes such as "And I Love You". "It is daunting. There are some composers that I feel I am not going to touch. I am not going to touch Wayne Shorter. I feel it would be very hard to make those songs better than they are. I think with the Broadway standards there is a lot that could be added," she says. Hardy wants to make it clear that not all her new arrangements are because she thinks she is improving the song. "I am able to express myself more if I put it in a context that is true to my music. A lot of the standards are from another era that for me I don't really connect with. That is why I feel I have to arrange some of these songs so I can connect with them," she says.
She also realizes, "There are critics who will say, 'Why did she do that to the song?' I am sure there are people out there who aren't into revamping old standards. Some people just want to hear standards straight down. The only song on my record that is straight ahead is "Haunted Heart". I approached that song completely different. That was coming from an emotional place. I had to mediate on getting into the space of what it is like to lose a loved one. I had to experience other people who had that happen. I had to try and live in that space and get into that space when I recorded it. That was a challenge in itself."
Hardy's music is born out of her personal experiences. "You experience more things and have more to draw upon. I have learned more about what my sound is and how to keep it coherent. It makes it easier just to connect with the audience because ultimately that is what matters. Giving something back to the people is always in the back of my mind. At the same time you can't try to be emotional, it has to come from inside you," the silky smooth chanteuse says.
"No Turning Back" was written about my move from Boston to New York. It is really like (saying there is) no turning back, here I am in New York. It is a story and kind of a wordless composition. Growing was actually written about Randy my boyfriend."
As Julie Hardy seeks to establish herself in the highly competitive New York City Jazz scene she pays tribute to the people who have helped her along the way. "My main mentor is Dominique Eade. There have been other people like Fred Hersch who really looked out for Randy and me when we first got here. It is really wonderful to have that support when you are new to the city," she says.
Her friend, confidant and lover Randy Ingram however has been her biggest source for encouragement. "Whenever I am unsure about something he will give his opinion. He is very tactful and sensitive about what he says. I also give him feedback about things you sometimes can't see yourself. He is great about being honest and candid," says Hardy.
She also notes that her friendship with vocalists such as David Devoe and Brenda Earle have helped her to adjust to the fast pace of New York.
Rarely does a young artist demonstrate the kind of composure possessed by Hardy. "I see it as being where it is supposed to be I guess. I am very comfortable. I don't feel like I am being pushed in any sort of direction. I am happy where I am right now and I feel like I just have to keep working at developing my own sound," she says.