Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Jane Olivor

Jane Olivor is a singer, pianist and song writer. She has been a personal inspiration for many years and her music has been a centering force for most of my adult life. She is the only performer that I have seen in concert in four different decades. Trisha and I went to a Jane Olivor concert on our first date.

I remember one evening in April 2004 when my six year old son, Hunter, wondered: "What does an angel sound like?" I walked over to the CD player and turned on Vincent, sung by Jane Olivor.

I talk about the reasons Jane has inspired me and her impact on my life in my upcoming book, Safari Into the Black and White Jungle. I won't spoil it by repeating very much here. Instead, I will give a short biography for those who may not be familiar with her or her music. The pictures that follow were all taken by me.

A native of Brooklyn, Jane's musical career started as a piano student but was derailed at age 12 by a disastrous accident which almost severed her right hand when it was cut by a glass door. So her voice became her musical outlet. Starting in Greenwich Village, she worked her way to Carnegie Hall to Paris and then to a television stage with millions of viewers. She was invited to sing The Last Time I Felt Like This, her duet with Johnny Mathis, at the live awards ceremonies in March 1979. The song was the theme of Universal's movie Same Time Next Year and received an Oscar nomination in the "Best Song" category. It is still heard on popular music stations today.

Jane's first album, appropriate titled First Night, was released in 1976. Chasing Rainbows was released in 1977 and Stay the Night followed in 1978. Her fourth album was The Best Side of Goodbye, released in 1980. I had them all and played them frequently.

I first saw her in concert with Charles Aznavour in late 1979. Then again in 1980 at the South Shore Music Circus in Scituate, Massachusetts . In 1981 she performed at the Cape Cod Melody tent and the Warwick Musical Theatre in Rhode Island . In Warwick she gave three concerts in two days. I attended them all. Her In Concert album, which was to be her last in nearly 20 years, was recorded on a brutally cold January night in 1982 at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston . I remember it like it was yesterday. The significance of that concert to me was a song entitled Pretty Girl which Jane not only wrote but she also played it on the piano. It was her first public performance on the piano since the age of 12!

Sadly, Jane Olivor disappeared from view shortly thereafter. She took a hiatus from public performances to care for her husband who was diagnosed with cancer. A six month leave quickly expanded to a year, then two years, then ten. Her loyal fans never lost hope that she would return.

One day in 1993 my friend Anne Williams, a radio personality on one of the Boston radio stations, called to tell me Jane Olivor was about to give a small comeback concert for a few of her friends and loyal fans at restaurant in Provincetown. I couldn't believe it! Sereda and I drove to P'town hoping the rumor was true and, if so, that we would be able to get tickets. We got in and found an intimate setting of 20 or 30 tables and it was really Jane! I admit, though, I wasn't sure at first because she had frosted her hair.

I was so excited. She talked of a new album she was working on and of her late husband's passing as well as some of the challenges she had faced over the preceding decade. Her voice was as beautiful as ever. I had tears in my eyes during half the concert.

Then, as abruptly as before, she disappeared from the limelight again. A new album a few years later, Love Decides, followed by a Christmas album and a re-release by Columbia of some of her old songs gave her loyal fans a glimmer of hope. There was no sign of a concert tour.

Finally, in 2002, Jane announced a comeback tour starting with two concerts at Hunter College in New York City on consecutive evenings. I was able to attend them both. In 2003, She performed a few concerts around the country culminated by a return to the Berklee Performance Center in November where she recorded a new live album, Safe Return, complete with a spectacular DVD. When I met her in May, 2004, for the release of Safe Return, I thanked her for the DVD noting that if she was to disappear again, her fans could now see her any time the want. She winked. That was the idea.

I saw her in concert one more time at Keswick Theatre near Philadelphia in late 2004. Her live performances since 2005, many of which were fundraisers for charity organizations, have been infrequent and scattered around the country. I almost saw her in San Francisco in 2006, but her second concert of a two-night performance was cancelled at the last minute. Her website has not been updated much in the last three years.

Learn more about Jane Olivor here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Olivor

http://www.edkeane.com/about%20the%20artists/Jane%20Olivor/Jane-Olivor.htm

http://www.stevenhousman.com/Interviews/JaneOlivor.html

http://www.talkinbroadway.com/cabaret/olivor.html

http://www.outsmartmagazine.com/issue/i12-00/music.html

buy her latest CD:

http://www.overstock.com/cgi-bin/d2.cgi?PAGE=PRODUCT&PROD_ID=674296&cid=64666&fp=F

buy her DVD (absolutely terrific!!):

http://www.overstock.com/cgi-bin/d2.cgi?PAGE=PRODUCT&PROD_ID=674296&cid=64666&fp=F

her albums:

http://www.vh1.com/artists/az/olivor_jane/albums.jhtml

Having given you all of this information, the essence of Jane Olivor is embedded in her songs. The wording in an old concert brochure put it most succinctly: "In the end, there is nothing you need to know about Jane Olivor that her voice cannot make you feel."

Update: May 2008 --

Online at
http://www.cabarets cenes.org/ cab_revs/ 2008/may08/ olivor_jane5- 08.html
with a older photo of Jane.

Jane Olivor
The Razz Room
San Francisco, CA

My pre-show prep work alerted me to the fact that Ms. Olivor was oft
compared to Barbra Streisand, but I wasn't quite prepared for the
uncanniness of the comparison at my first introduction to this
phenomenal vocalist. Her physical look, her Brooklyn accent and her
vocal inflection all screamed very early Streisand but softer, sweeter
without the heavy baggage of icon-ness. But once the similarity ebbs,
you discover the beauty and power in Olivor's performance.

Olivor has had a storied career herself and this show contained both
the bouncy, positive upbeat life philosophy (Irving Berlin's "Sun in
the Mornin'") and beautifully sung ballads ("Stay the Night") that
have endeared her to her fans. Olivor doesn't have to sell songs –
they breathe a life of their own with her pitch perfect, soft as a
summer breeze delivery. She offered slightly altered arrangements of
the classic "Some Enchanted Evening' and "Isn't It Romantic" to great
effect. A lovely rendition of the haunting "Vincent" was followed by
Michel LeGrand/Bergman' s "Little Boy Lost" from the '70s movie Pieces
of Dreams. She soared on "Last Time I Felt Like This," the Academy
Award nominated duet performed with Johnny Mathis. The highlight of
the show for me were two magnificent Burt Bacharach songs: "Where
Knowledge Ends" and "Alfie"— showstopper material adeptly performed,
enhanced by Alex Rybeck on the piano.

Olivor has a stunning voice that demands rapt attention to every lyric
and nuance. She's now comfortable onstage and is as fine an
interpreter and stylist as you'll see. We're glad she's back
performing in intimate settings like the Rrazz Room.

Steve Murray
Cabaret Scenes
May 22, 2008
www.cabaretscenes. org

1 comment:

Jerry said...

Is there any way you can transfer this great material about Jane Olivor to her Wikipedia site.

I had an audio cassette 20 years ago of an album with her and Charles Asnavour. Do you knoe if it is available as Audio CD?
Jerry Stens
jerstens@gmail.com