In the worlds of standard popular music and vocal jazz, both of which Jane Harvey inhabits, repertoire can be half the battle. In fact, as she made inescapably clear Tuesday in the first night of her two-night stand at the Vine St. Bar & Grill, it can carry the night.
To jaded listeners tired of the same endless litany of standards, Harvey's song cycle was a joy in itself. Even when familiar tunes were used, they were attached in some ingenious manner to one or two others. Typically, Cy Coleman's "It's a Nice Face" led to the Gershwins' "They Can't Take That Away From Me," which in turn segued to "That Face" by Lew Spence. "Some Other Time" by Leonard Bernstein crossed over into Harold Arlen's "This Time the Dream's on Me," and Arlen's "Buds Won't Bud" served as a verse for "But Not for Me."
The most valuable factor in Harvey's selection of material, however, was the extent to which she leaned on Stephen Sondheim. Material from "Follies" and other shows, obscure tunes from a show that died in Philadelphia, all came under her sensitive scrutiny. These works, drawn from her forthcoming album, offered a dazzling reminder of the degree to which Sondheim's contribution has dominated the classic-pop scene in the last 20 years.
Harvey makes up with a latent intensity what she sometimes may lack in overt strength, though there were moments when her light-textured, little-girl quality was transformed to reveal surprising power. Emotionally, particularly in the medley of "In Buddy's Eyes" by Sondheim and "My Buddy" (Walter Donaldson, 1922), her gentle passion worked wonders with a receptive audience.