Live Jazz: Jane Harvey at Catalina Bar & Grill

By Tony Gieske

No need to add encomia to the already overloaded resume of  the great Jane Harvey,  who transformed Catalina’s into a hip little branch of the Apple the other night.

She probably could have gotten by with just singing her resume, this lady. (Lorraine Feather could have written the music.)

Harvey might have started the job list with her employment on the Benny Goodman band back in the 1940s. Her version of  “He’s Funny That Way,” recorded with Goodman’s sextet (Slam  Stewart on bass!) as the war clouds departed, still gives off plenty of steam in the version  you can still hear on the net.

Then she could put down the band of  Desi Arnaz before he met Lucy,  when he worked with Bob Hope.

There’d be a subhead for television, headed by Steve Allen on “The Tonight Show” and proceeding to Jane Pauley on “The Today Show”; a Broadway section (”Bless You All” with Pearl Bailey); and a long stretch of recordings as they advanced from 78 rpm to mp3.

At Catalina’s, Harvey did  utterly convincing, if not transformative, performances of tunes from her newly re-released CD,  “Jane Harvey Sings Sondheim.” Not too many gals in their 80s are out there pushing their latest sides, right?

I was struck by the unusual skill with which she sang, and with her adroitly supportive trio of piano, bass and drums.  Her time and her pitches were kept precise.  That, of course, got her carefully weighed phrasing working. Each lyric became a moving little drama — tragic, comic, anecdotal… no sweat.

The savvy old chanteuse kept the program moving right along. For every “Send in the Clowns” tear dropper there was a sarcastic “Could I Leave You.” She made “Send in the Clowns” quite palatable; she even saved the inevitable “I’m Still Here” with a touch of weariness that proved moving, even to the sated L.A culture  quaffers — present company excepted — who came to listen to this remarkable artist.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  To read and see more of Tony’s essays and photos at his personal web site click HERE.

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