by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The Hardimans, Rebecca (right) and Ray (back), met more than 30 years ago, and even then music was at the center of their relationship. Today, that remains true, as the couple have helped create a popular Friday jazz night at a Wilsonville night spot.Sometimes what you’re looking for is not to be found where you’re searching.

That’s the case for Wilsonville couple Ray and Rebecca Hardiman.

Lifelong musicians who have toured internationally in years past, the couple found the insular world of Portland jazz to be a tough nut to crack at first. Established downtown clubs were hesitant to book them. And they didn’t receive a lot of support from other musicians.

So they decided to look closer to home and quickly discovered what they were seeking all along. Now, it’s been one year since the Hardimans started up Friday jazz nights at the Langdon Farms Grill. And instead of looking north with envy at an established scene, the reverse seems to be happening.

“Because it’s been so successful,” said Ray Hardiman, an accomplished pianist. “Downtown Portland players who might not play with us — we were never big names — as soon as they saw this, people are flocking there, and now big name Portland people are playing with us.”

The Hardimans still play weekly. But now they — known as the Rebecca Hardiman Trio — are accompanied by the likes of Nate Botsford or Ron Steen, and the whole thing is growing before their eyes.

Ray Hardiman started last March playing as a solo piano act. That, he said, “doubled” the Grill’s average Friday night take and encouraged them to put more effort into marketing.

“It occurred to me, that folks in there don’t necessarily want to have to drive to downtown Portland to hear top-notch jazz,” Rebecca Hardiman said. “So why not have people gravitate here and give Wilsonville a good name for jazz in the process?”

So far, it seems to be working.

“It’s been great,” she said. “Because even Salem people have come down to this area.”

The Hardimans’ musical renaissance began in 2010 with a series of gigs in Silverton. Prior to that it had been nearly a decade since either of them had set foot on stage.

“For about 10 years it almost faded away,” Ray Hardiman said. “And we noticed how depressed we got that we weren’t actively doing our music.”

Both Hardimans began playing multiple instruments at a young age. They met almost 25 years ago when Ray was visiting Seattle with The Ritz, an eight-piece ensemble playing pop, funk, disco, jazz and more. Rebecca was a student at Edmonds Community College, where she performed with the school’s renowned vocal choir.

The couple immediately hit it off. Even better, Rebecca auditioned with the group for a slot as vocalist and was quickly welcomed aboard. She went on to become an integral part of the band, and toured with it extensively over the course of the next decade.

“We’ve been playing for a long time,” Ray said. “We made our first CD back in 1987 when CDs were first coming out. It was one of the first direct-to-digital recordings in this country and we had to fly in the equipment to record.”

“I was from Salem, he was from Boston,” Rebecca said. “I went there to try and hit it big musically, but then he said let’s move back to Portland.”

They did just that in 1990, continuing to play music with a new band called Euphoria. But as time passed, the gigs became more infrequent. Managing the business side of being in an active band grew more onerous. And the daily juggling act between earning a living at a day job and staying active musically became more stressful. An electrical engineer during the day, Ray found himself focusing more and more on his career.

Eventually, they stopped playing music altogether.

“For about 10 years it almost faded away and we noticed how depressed we got that we weren’t actively doing our music,” Ray said.

In 2010, he started performing again in Silverton. Last year, he cold called David Stead, manager of the Langdon Farms Golf Club, with a proposal to hold jazz nights at the club’s restaurant and lounge. To the Hardimans’ surprise, Langdon Farms was open to the idea and it went ahead.

The results were so encouraging that the Hardimans went ahead and recorded a record of jazz standards at Nettleingham Audio in Vancouver last fall. The resulting CD was released on iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby in December.

Now, with roots firmly established in a local scene of their own making, the Hardimans say they’ve found something resembling the balance in life they’ve been looking for.

“For once we feel like we’ve got a good life-work balance,” Rebecca said.

“If you relieve that pressure, the music actually becomes a lot more enjoyable,” Ray said.

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