Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Still on a "Jane kick"

For the past four years I have worked with SSJ Records Japan on a number of projects. My efforts for the label have included: producing, reissue producing, liner note writing and contract negotiation.

However, a recent SSJ CD that I am highly enthusiastic about is one on which I had almost no input at all: Jane Harvey Sings Sondheim. Lest you think that this is but a reissue of Ms. Harvey’s 1988 Atlantic Records release, The Other Side of Sondheim, you are only partially correct. Let me explain:

When the album was released in ‘88, at the very last minute, to both Harvey’s and pianist-arranger Mike Renzi’s extreme displeasure, an overdub of arrangements by Ray Ellis was added by Atlantic to all tracks, which were originally trio performances. Not that there’s anything wrong with the wonderful Ray Ellis, but in this instance, the addition of his large ensemble charts essentially defeated the jazz intentions of the album.

Not long ago, however, Ms. Harvey was able to buy back the master of the album from Atlantic, and it has just been released in Japan on SSJ Records. Now, with this new 2009 release (in this case, “reissue“ is not really the right word), those overdubs are gone! Medleys were arbitrarily sliced and diced by a house producer, leaving the floor littered with a remaining 43 minutes; the current version is 59 minutes.
To my ears, the difference between the original release and the “unexpurgated” (Harvey’s word) version is astonishing. In the 1988 issue, there was a jazz album hidden in there. . . somewhere. But one had to search long and hard through the undergrowth of large orchestral sounds in order to find it. But now, at last, it can be heard as originally intended! There is no question in my mind, that what Jane Harvey and Mike Renzi (and Grady Tate and Jay Leonhart) initially created is a work of great importance. (And in addition to original (now-stringless) tracks that were on the original release, there are now four bonus tracks not on the original release, plus Jane’s 2009 recording of “Send in the Clowns.”)

Stephen Sondheim songs include "Old Friends", "Everybody Says Don't", "The Story Of Lucy & Jessie", "Pretty Women/Not While I'm Around", "Could I Leave You", "Not A Day Goes By", "There Won't Be Trumpets", and "Send In The Clowns."

Per usual, the traditional cost of Japanese imports tends to be on the offputting side; and the current weak dollar to yen exchange rate isn't helping matters. However, knowing what I know now, and IF I had not received my own freeFreeFREE comp copy, I'd be willing to shell out almost whatever was necessary to obtain a copy of this jazz vocal masterwork. Available at CDBABY.COM.
Audio Specs

Digitally remastered with superior sound quality.

Complete obi-strip & Japanese introductory/lyrics sheet included.
HQCD (High Quality CD), fully compatible with standard CD players, enables greater       transparency, higher perceived sound pressure levels, a better frequency balance, higher resolution and wider and deeper soundstage. HQCD achieves higher quality audio through the use of a polycarbonate plastic with improved transparency derived from LCD display manufacturing technologies.

Here is a track from the new version: Who's That Woman / The Ladies Who Lunch (The first song was deleted from the medley intended for the Atlantic version)

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