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Jane Harvey: No Regrets

As she nears 90, the singer still has the magic

Jane Harvey

Early last year, after more than two decades’ silence, 87-year-old Jane Harvey decided to sing again. With assistance from her manager, Alan Eichler, the longtime cult favorite among vocal-jazz aficionados put together an act. She tested it at Catalina’s in L.A. and then brought it to New York for a one-night-only performance at Feinstein’s at the Regency, prompting a wellspring of accolades. Seizing the moment, Eichler asked Harvey’s permission to assemble a series of retrospective CDs, tracing her peripatetic career all the way back to its big-band-era roots. “I didn’t think I had more than 10 or 12 singles out there, let alone albums,” says Harvey, “but I told him to go ahead and he came back with enough for five albums. I don’t remember recording half the stuff he found. When he played something called ‘The Kiss That Rocked the World’ [the ‘A’ side of a 1958 Roulette single], I said, ‘That’s not me! I would never sing a song like that.’ I had to hear it several times before I realized it was me. I was abashed!”

The five discs (released on the Little Jazz Bird label) cover almost Harvey’s entire recorded output, stretching from her brief tenure with Benny Goodman in the mid-’40s to her final album to date, 1988’s The Other Side of Sondheim, including dozens of rarities and never-released sessions with the likes of Duke Ellington and Les Paul. The new releases are a boon for fans and collectors, who’ve had to pay dearly for the smattering of Japanese reissues that has appeared over the years, yet rather paltry for a career that now spans eight decades. But, as author James Gavin, arguably America’s foremost authority on jazz and cabaret vocalists, notes, “Jane has been under the radar for most of her career, disappearing from public view for years at a time, then suddenly reappearing with some audacious new show or album and looking and sounding virtually ageless. She is delightfully self-deprecating and clear-eyed with regard to her career. She doesn’t try to cloud her professional missteps or blame them on someone else, [and] she recounts them hilariously.”

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