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Jane Monheit

Contemporary Jazz

Sat, May 29 Sat, May 29
7:30pm 9:30pm

This talented and beautiful jazz and adult contemporary vocalist has collaborated with artists such as Michael Bublé, Ivan Lins and Terence Blanchard. In the process, she has been nominated for two Grammys.

  • Monheit has sung at the White House and the Capitol Fourth of July Celebration, and The National Memorial Day Celebration.
  • Monheit enjoys singing jazz standards but also champions the work of younger composers like Corinne Bailey Rae and Fiona Apple.
  • The title of her newest album, “The Lovers, The Dreamers And Me” was inspired by the Muppets song “Rainbow Connection,” which she sings to her young child, Jack.
    • Sound Observations From Jane Monheit

      By David Moye

      Jazz is supposed to be improvisational music, where musical decisions are made on the fly at any moment.

      And that spontaneity is one of the things that appeals to Jane Monheit.

      The very talented jazz vocalist, who is playing May 29 and 30 at Anthology, says that when she is considering a song, it doesn’t take much thought at all.

      “When I decide to do a song, I know right away and how to interpret it,” Monheit said while on the phone.

      That spontaneity is good for singing and good for her other job: being a mother.

      Monheit is the mother of Jack, her two-year-old son with her husband and drummer Rick Montalbano, and anyone who has kids that age knows that being able to adapt to sudden changes is part of the job.

      “Jack, Mommy’s on the phone,” she said, during her phone interview. “Go talk to Daddy. Now, what were we talking about? Oh yes, when I’m choosing to do a song, lyrics and melody are equally important, although many great instrumentalists have shown you can have one without the other.”

      A discussion about how some song lyrics sound great in the ear, but lay there flat when you read them on the page leads to a comment about Joni Mitchell.

      “I have a book of her lyrics,” she said. “They read just as well as they sing. As someone who doesn’t write songs, I take lyrics very seriously.”

      Monheit is unique where jazz singers go. At the age of 32, she represents a generation of musicians who grew up in the aftermath of the punk revolution. Because her instrument is such a perfect vehicle for jazz, it surprises many people that this virtuoso vocalist is a big heavy metal fan.

      “I love it! I especially love the big hair power ballads. But I could never sing it” she said. “It always surprises people that I like metal, but I like all kinds of music. I love pop music – like Lady Gaga. She’s a great singer! She’s got a trained voice and writes great melodies.

      To this writer’s ear, Lady Gaga’s melodies to lend themselves to jazz interpretation, but while Monheit admires her, she isn’t necessarily going to start adding “Paparazzi” to her set list.. Still, she seems excited about the ballad version of “Pokerface” performed on “Glee” the previous night.

      “I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m looking forward to it,” she said, before talking to Jack again.

      “Mommy’s working right now. I’ll be right there. Rick, can you take him for a minute?” she apologized. “I’m sorry. We’re both on the phone talking to different people!”

      No need to. Been there, understand it.

      The conversation continues and the question is asked: You like rock and heavy metal and Lady Gaga. Do you ever want to adapt those songs?

      “It depends,” she said. “I really like doing a cover where people don’t realize it’s a cover.”

      Oh yeah, the writer says. When I saw you at Anthology last year, you opened with a Michael Buble song, “Everywhere.”

      “I don’t know that song,” she said.

      You don’t? A quickly fumbled attempt at singing the song gives way to better judgment.

      “I’ve never covered one of his songs,” she explained.

      Oh, well, whatever song it was, was good.

      Along with Lady Gaga, Monheit is a big fan of Corrine Bailey Rae.

      “If I were to commission a song, I’d like to have her do it, because we’re the same age and have the same influences. But so is Norah Jones.”

      Once again, Jack is in the background, begging the question, with two parents in the music industry, has he inherited the genes?

      “He is a great drummer and loves to sing,” she said. “He has a great ear. We rarely play my music in the house, but I played some rough cuts from my upcoming album to my in-laws. It’s the only time the record played in the house and he heard the introduction – even before the vocals – and said, ‘Mommy.’”

      Monheit suspects Jack has perfect pitch, something she and her husband both have in common. With some musicians, that can be a blessing and a curse. Monheit admits it was tough when she was younger.

      “When I was younger, it was hard to shut it off,” she said. “Now I can, except it’s tough when I reading a note and trying to transpose it in another key,” she said. “I’ll read one note and hear another.

      “It can be tough when you’re recording. There are lots of factors that go into singing a note. It’s not just about pitch. Sometimes it’s flat for physical reasons that have nothing to do with pitch.”

      That can be rough in the studio, because Monheit refuses to use the Auto-Tune software favored by many contemporary singers (who can’t really sing).

      “I try to go for complete takes, but if I hear a note and it’s not right, I’ll do it again,” she said. “I’m punching in vocals all the time.”

      As the interview draws to a close, and Monheit gets ready to tend to Jack, there is time for one more question: Is there an instrumentalist who has influenced your singing style?

      “Yes, [pianist] Bill Evans,” she said. “Mostly in his approach to harmony; the delicate way he treats his tunes. When he reharmonizes a song, it’s with integrity. He’s been so influential that now it’s hard for me to listen to him without getting emotional.”

Claudia Acuña, Katie Melua, and the poppier Norah Jones debuted around the
same time, but none had Monheit’s elegance and ability to phrase in such
unique and stately fashion within the jazz canon.”
-The Philadelphia Inquirer

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