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)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kurt alert!

click pic to blow up realll gooood!

Also of note (in addition to Kurt Reichebach), Peter Marshall, self-described "boy singer" (of un certaine age) will be appearing at Vitello's in North Hollywood on December 2, at 8 pm. w/Larry White on piano. This is an advance woodshedding gig for Marshall's upcoming Feinstein's NYC date, December 6 & 7 . Clearing out those pipes and loosening up those limbs.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Just call me the "Keane" of jazz photographers.

You would do better to give your dog a camera to take photos. To put it another way, I ain't exactly no William Claxton. Be that as it may, here are a few snaps taken, while I was in Tokyo this week, of singer Jane Harvey in rehearsal, and post-performance at Tokyo TUC nightclub.

This last pic is of Jane, the next night, making her karaoke debut.

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

Friday, November 06, 2009

We're here!

I'm far too revved up to make obeissance to that ol' journalism formulae, the inverted triangle, and so here, in no particular order, are some random impressions of my current trip to Tokyo, Japan accompanying singer Jane Harvey (and husband Bill King) for her upcoming gig next Wednesday night at Tokyo TUC Jazz Club.
We arrived safe n' sound yesterday and are now settled in at our respective hotels. Last night, I received my copy of the new and revamped version (see below) of Jane's 1987 Stephen Sondheim tribute album. A standout is her added 2009 version of "Clowns." Absolutely in great voice, pitch perfect! Especially amazing inasmuch as she has been professionally hors de combat for more than a decade. I fearlessly predict that she will kill next Wednesday night in performance; and I mean KILL! Yesterday, a Japanese workman at the Kings' hotel, in broken English, congratulated Jane on the reissue of her Sondheim outing. NOW---I ask you---How hip is that?
I also was given copies of the three new SSJ label CDs that I worked on recently in one capacity or another: Jennie Smith Nightly Yours on the Steve Allen Show, Corky Shayne: In the Mood for a Song?; and Richie Kamuca / Buddy Tate Live at Donte's, but You Steve. . .Me Jane (as I prefer to call it) is, for my money, the crowning glory of the current crop of SSJ releases, which also includes pianist David Morgenroth's fine Alone with Duke (Ellington).
If one had a dollar for every car horn (and tire screeech) that one did NOT hear in Tokyo, but DID hear in N.Y. or L.A., said auditor would die (eventually) a happier, healthier and far wealthier person. It never dawns on the typical Japanese driver to use the car horn for anything other than the purpose for which it was originally devised: the alerting of potential danger. . .and NOT the venting of frustrations and/or anger. And the lack of tire squeals is probably attributable to, as Jane excitedly exlaimed last night, "Look! The drivers all stay in their lanes!" And, I might add, move mighty fast! A nation of veritable Sterling Mosses.
Jane, her husband, jazz crit Keizo Takada, Mssrs Sangu and Kobari (of SSJ) and I went out for sushi last night. Jane amazed, amused and surprised everyone by packing away at least twice as much of the stuff as anyone else.
I am staying at my ususal humble, but quite wonderful Tokyo abode, the Asia Kaikan hotel (8000 yen a night!). I went to visit some friends today at what is clearily the most opulent upscale hotel in Japan, The Ritz-Carlton, which begins on the 45th floor and, then, proceeds to ascend ever-heavenward into the ether. To give you an idea of exactly how upscale the R-C is. . . in their, umm, errr (for want of a better word) "coffee shoppe", a cuppa Joe costs sixteen samoleons, however---it should be added---mit refills. It dawns on me that you could put the entirety of Asia Kaikan into the nosebleed-inducing R-C lobby. . . and still have room left over. But ohmigawd. . .wotta view! If I ever stayed here. I'd probably never get to sleep, so transfixed would I be by the vast expanse of the night time Tokyo cityscape. Makes NY and L.A. look positively Palooka-ville by comparison.
I find that by employing a mixture of my rudimentary Japanese, English, body language, and foley artistry, I am now fairly able (in this, my sixth visit here) to get around in this wondrous (definitely) not-Kansas-anymore, space age locale, i.e. "Do you know where there is a payphone?" is affected by my saying "Denwa" (Nihongo for just plain "phone"), then miming the the action of dropping coins in a slot, accompanied by my FX of "KA-CHING"!
The Jane Sings Sondheim CD is in stores already and is flying off the shelves; and I mean FLYING!
Phone call from home yesterday: the cat is fine and the new smoke detectors have been installed.
More later.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


And Now. . .Dr. Chilledair is off to Tokyo to attend singer Jane Harvey's 11/11 performance at Tokyo TUC nightclub. Be there or be square. . .or both.