“Why was I born with a song in my heart?” asks Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach’s 1931 tune “Don’t Ask Me Not to Sing.” “On most every occasion / With a little persuasion / I find that a ballad’s about to start.” Andrea Marcovicci certainly has a thing for ballads–and why not? They fit her warm, vibrant alto to a T. On her Elba Records release Just Kern, she proves she’s especially well suited to the songs the master melodist wrote with a variety of lyricists, including Oscar Hammerstein, Ira Gershwin, P.G. Wodehouse, and Dorothy Fields. To both well-known numbers (including “All the Things You Are,” “Bill,” and a gorgeous reading of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”) and ripe-for-rediscovery oddities (“How’d You Like to Spoon With Me?,” a ragtime “Raggedy Ann”), Marcovicci brings a keen interpretive intelligence that’s quirky enough to deflect corniness but romantic enough to be true to the material. Her forthright approach–alternately earthy and ethereal, robust and ruminative–helps her steer clear of sentimentality and expose the eroticism lying under the songs’ recurring obsession with perfect love (imagined, pursued, found, and lost). Accompanied by her musical director, keyboardist Glen Mehrbach, and an ensemble of local players, Marcovicci comes to town with a concert based on her Kern collection (including an opening-night benefit for the AIDS Legal Council) and a late-night program, Double Torch, that combines the repertoire of such divas of despair as Edith Piaf, Helen Morgan, and Libby Holman with poetry readings from the work of Emily Dickinson, Dorothy Parker, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Just Kern: Tuesday through next Saturday, May 11-15, 8 PM. Double Torch: next Friday and Saturday, May 14 and 15,10:30 PM. Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 929-5959 or 559-1212.