Tuesday, March 22, 2011

He couldn't be righter

New York Observer
March 22, 2011
Rex Reed

Back in the good old days, People Who Knew Things praised Jane Harvey as one of the big-band era's most exalted song stylists. A little thrush from New Jersey, she was discovered at the Blue Angel by Desi Arnaz, who got her on "The Bob Hope Show" and showcased her with his band at Ciro's. She followed Peggy Lee with the Benny Goodman orchestra, replaced Doris Day with Les Brown's Band of Renown and recorded some memorable albums that are collector's items now.

She still lives in Hollywood, but at Feinstein's at the Regency, where she knocked their socks off last Sunday and makes one final appearance on Monday, March 28, she is living proof that real talent never fades. The first singer to record the jazz side of Sondheim, she brought that out-of-print album out of mothballs last year. Rave reviews and a lot of cash-register action followed, and here she is, better late than never. It would be hard to imagine a more natural or heartfelt interpreter of this material, and the sensational pianist Mike Renzi provides beautiful chords for her to swing in.

On everything from a gentle reading of "Would I Leave You" from "Follies" to a heartbreaking "Not While I'm Around" from "Sweeney Todd," she is different from everyone else, and even on the overexposed stuff like "Ladies Who Lunch," she stamps the arrangement with a unique style as personal as a tattoo. Almost
conversational in tone, her phrasing is unlike anything you've experienced in the past, and her ideas are fresh and startling. Who else would think of using the ossified "Send in the Clowns" as a lead-in to Rodgers and Hart's sad, exclusive "It Never Entered My Mind"? Presuming (correctly, alas) that as much as we admire him, we're so up to our eyeballs with a glut of Sondheim during the never-ending celebration of his 80th birthday that we're beginning to feel like force-fed geese with exploding livers in preparation for foie gras, Ms. Harvey wisely moves into the Great American Songbook for the balance, with easy, unforced and warmly intimate classics like Jerome Kern's "Remind Me," Oscar Levant's "Blame It on My Youth" and Harold Arlen's "This Time the Dream's on Me." (She plans more of the same on March 28, so plan ahead.) Rich, subtle and earthy, Jane Harvey is a true treasure brought back to life just when we need her most.

No comments: