NEW YORK — Jane Harvey, whose career as a jazz vocalist lasted nearly 70 years and included recordings with Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington, died Thursday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 88. The cause was stomach cancer.
Ms. Harvey never had a very high profile, because she frequently took time off from performing. Most of her several husbands discouraged her singing, and she disliked traveling. But her voice, which ranged from dulcet to husky, kept resurfacing over the decades.
“Miss Harvey’s voice is small but captivating, and she produces fine shadings of intonation with subtle emotional resonances,” Stephen Holden wrote in The New York Times about a performance in 1985.
Her first hit record was “Close as Pages in a Book,” from the Sigmund Romberg-Dorothy Fields musical, “Up in Central Park,” which she recorded with Goodman’s band in 1944 during what turned out to be just a six-month stay. She went on to record several titles with Desi Arnaz’s Latin dance band, the most popular of which was “A Rainy Night in Rio,” but did not tour with him. She joined a USO tour of occupied Europe with Bob Hope in 1948 and two years later sang on Broadway in the revue “Bless You All.”
Her first husband, record producer Bob Thiele, recorded her with Ellington and guitarist Les Paul and also produced her 1959 album, “Leave It to Jane.” But for many years she focused on raising their son, Bob Jr.
Ms. Harvey and Thiele eventually divorced. She told Jazz Times in 2012 that the 1960s and ’70s were “a time when I always seemed to be getting married and divorced,” leaving little time for singing, although she continued to perform at a Manhattan piano bar and released the albums “I’ve Been There” and “Me Fats, You Jane,” a tribute to Fats Waller.
Ms. Harvey continued to perform sporadically until recently. Last year the Little Jazz Bird label reissued her earlier recordings and some that had never been released.
Jane Harvey was born Phyllis Taff in Jersey City. She recently recorded an album of Duke Ellington songs.