Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Curtain Up, Light the Lights (Again!): The Jane Harvey "Story"

I am with singer Jane Harvey in Tokyo (and I don't mean Tokyo, Indiana) right now. Tonight is her show at Tokyo TUC night club, which will consist of a mix of standards and major Sondheim arcana. I have gone to rehearsals and she is in superb form. Jane just suddenly (after remarrying about five years ago) got the bug to work again, and so. . ..

People on the street, here, recognize her from album cover photos taken a number of years ago, and come up to congratulate her on the reissue of her Sondheim album. Jane will be recording and performing again. She appears in perfect health, and looks great!

Yesterday , I sat in on Japanese magazine interviews with Jane, and her career tales of more than skeenteen years in show business are spellbinding to say the least. Everything but the Mankiewiczian hounds snapping at her rear end. She started out, professionally, as a teenager, in burlesque. (Who knew????) Not as a stripper, but as a singer who sang and restored order in between more hectic parts of the show with the baggy pants comics and the "girls." She stumbled into this "career move" quite by accident after being booked to "sing in a show" by a theatrical agency. In timeworn showbiz fash (pacé Ira Gersh), the "girls" immediately took her under their collective wings to "protect" her. . .natch! Her singing career, as such, actually began when she was four-years-old performing in a style derived from Helen (The Boop Girl) Kane. Jane was then known as Little Baby Phylis. But she was not quite a professional at that juncture. Women's clubs, that sort of thing.

Several years before joining the Benny Goodman band in 1944, she had already appeared with several other outfits, including that one of well-known bandleader of his day, Ray Herbeck. Also, before Goodman, she had her own sustaining radio show on the Mutual Broadcasting System. That was news to me.

Although her official recording ouevre is somewhat slim (due to unfortunate professional inactivity, the result of several marriages), she brought along with her to Tokyo several tapes' worth of unreleased material, including tracks with several Pantheon players. And my guess is that there is still more where that came from. She has even made mention of a "lost" session from Chicago with Duke Ellington in the 1950s. Any Ellington scholars out there care to get on the case?

Some of what I have written here was gleaned from overhearing Jane's interview with Japanese jazz critic Keizo Takada yesterday. I trust that he doesn't mind my expropriating these few little tidbits. Look for a much, much fuller version of Jane Harvey's ---let's face it---epic showbiz saga in an upcoming issue of the Japanese magazine, Jazz Critique.

I could sit and listen to Jane talk all night. . .and I think I have. She loves to talk. . .and sing! It is quite a daunting task keeping up with her and husband Bill going shopping on the Ginza. Saturday they went to a four-hour Kabuki performance, and Jane still hasn't stopped (you guessed it) talking about it. No surprise, her critical exegeses of the event seem, to me, most perceptive.

Tonight is Jane's performance at Tokyo TUC. I'll try and report in again tomorrow.
Tokorode and iroiro:

I've gone Tokyo record shopping, of course, i.e. Recofan, Disk Union(s), the seven-stories tall (!) Tower Records in Shibuya, etc. But trying to be prudent with my yen, I've only bought two LPs thus far. . .major gaps: Frances Wayne's "The Warm Sound" and Claire Hogan's DeSylva, Brown and Henderson songbook. (Of course, the trip's not over quite yet!)
Drchilledair gets all Haiku-y (for Jay)

There is rain today
In Tokyo, and so now
All is wonderful

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