By Chuck Obuchowski
Monheit has never hidden her admiration for the star-crossed Ms. Garland who – despite lifelong personal travails – enriched many lives with her tremendous singing and acting abilities. One of Monheit’s most frequently performed songs is “Over the Rainbow,” which Garland first sang in the 1939 film classic “The Wizard of Oz.” She often mentions Garland as one of her main influences, alongside jazz vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn and a handful of contemporary pop vocalists, including Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Wonder.
Among the Garland favorites you might hear on Saturday are “The Sweetest Sound,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart” and “The Boy Next Door.” Monheit’s longstanding trio is sure to bring new sparks to these and other Garland standards. Pianist Michael Kanan, bassist Neal Miner and drummer Rick Montalbano (Jane’s husband) exhibit an uncanny rapport that’s been developed through years of touring and recording together.
Last year’s The Heart of the Matter, Monheit’s ninth studio album, featured her usual mix of American Songbook standards, pop tunes and Brazilian songs, plus an original composition “Night Night Stars,” inspired by her son Jack. It marked her second collaboration with producer/arranger Gil Goldstein, who added orchestral touches and other instrumental colors to the basic piano trio format.
Her Hello Bluebird performances on this tour may well become the framework for Monheit’s next recording. After Saturday’s performance, the singer heads to the Midwest, and then on to California. She’ll be back in New York, her current hometown, for a couple guest appearances with the John Pizzarelli Quartet at the end of May.
At 36, Jane Monheit is one of the most popular jazz vocalists of her generation. It seems like she’s been on the scene forever; has it really been 15 years since my first encounter with her music?
In November 1999, I was one of the organizers of a concert celebrating the centennial of Duke Ellington’s birth at The University of Hartford. Joel Frahm, a fine saxophonist whose quartet would be headlining the event, asked if it would be okay if a friend of his joined the group to sing a couple Ellington hits during their set.
“You probably haven’t heard of her, but – trust me – you’ll be hearing a lot about her soon,” Joel assured me.
It seemed like a nice idea to add a vocal element to an otherwise instrumental concert, but I couldn’t have anticipated the impact Jane Monheit would have on the audience that night. Although she sang for less than 15 minutes, Monheit received thunderous applause and a standing ovation. She had just turned 22, and her debut recording wouldn’t be issued for another six months, but Jane made a lot of instant fans that evening.
Jane Monheit is no overnight sensation. She’s worked hard for her recognition, shaping her sound over the course of many tours and guest spots on more seasoned artists’ gigs and recordings. Now that she’s an established leader herself, she’s able to entertain and entrance an audience. Hear for yourself on Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are still available for her show by clicking here!