“The sweetest sounds I’ll ever hear are still inside my head.” When Richard Rodgers wrote those words for Diahann Carroll in 1962, they were intended to convey romantic inexperience, a yearning for grand passion. But Mandy Harvey can take Rodgers literally. The 22-year-old Coloradan is deaf. Three years ago, the hearing loss she’s endured since childhood became near-total. Since then, with tremendous support from her family, voice teacher Cynthia Vaughn and jazz pianist and educator Mark Sloniker, not to mention remarkable personal fortitude, Harvey has become a regular performer (with Sloniker) at Jay’s Bistro in Fort Collins and has released her debut album.
But Harvey doesn’t want you to think of her as a deaf woman who can sing. She rightly considers herself a jazz singer who happens to have hearing impairment. Truth is, she is a terrific jazz singer. Period. No tricks, no technological wizardry, just exemplary readings of classic Tin Pan Alley tunes, enhanced by perfect pitch and a soft-swinging, folk-tinged style.
Understandably, Harvey favors head tones, lending a lightness that intensifies her ethereal appeal. Her interpretive skills are equally impressive. Endless others have turned “Smile” inside out to reveal its poignant center, but rarely with an ache as gently heartbreaking as Harvey’s. Her fragile “I’ll Be Seeing You” evokes images of deserted, rain-swept streets, the loneliness like a deepening fog. Particularly effecting in its gorgeous simplicity is her “What a Wonderful World,” a tiny bud opening to a peaceful, promise-filled dawn.