Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

May/June 2013: George Benson

Jane Monheit

Written by:

Jane Monheit has been singing all her life. By the time she was in high school, she was singing professionally. In 1998, while still a student in the jazz program at Manhattan School of Music, she was a finalist in the Thelonious Monk Jazz Institute’s vocal competition. That turned everybody’s head, and her career was launched.

Her debut recording, Never Never Land, appeared in 2000, and in just over a dozen years, she has released eight more studio recordings, including Taking a Chance on Love, and The Lovers, The Dreamers, and Me. Two of her songs have been nominated for Grammy Awards, and she has worked with many big names in the business, including Terence Blanchard, Tom Harrell, and Michael Bublé.

Monheit names Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland as the two singers who continue to be her inspiration. You can hear that in her singing—the respect for the jazz tradition, the appreciation for high-level musicianship and vocal skill, and the lure of the theatrical potential of sharing stories through song.

That focus on lyrics is the driving force in her brand new recording, The Heart of the Matter. The songs range from standards, to a Beetles tune, to a couple sung in Portuguese, to her first recorded original. All of them are personal in different ways—for her they are vehicles for self-expression.

“At the beginning of my career,” she says, “I wanted to show proof of my knowledge of music, that I could improvise and sing through the changes. But as I got older, especially after getting married and having a child, I started feeling the lyrics more simply because I had more to sing about. Focusing on the technical side was part of my learning process, but over time, all of that became a natural part of my singing. Now I use it to support the lyric, not just to prove myself.”

Monheit’s husband, Rick Montalbano, is her drummer, and their non-stop tour schedule includes their young son. Other members of the band are bassist Neal Miner, and pianist Michael Kanan.

Jane Monheit performs June 21, as part of the TD International Jazz Festival. If you love the American Songbook and you want to hear a young voice making a classic statement, this is your concert! Jane Monheit brings an old-style glamour to the stage, and she will delight you with her lyric gift.

Copyright! © 2023 dig! magazine.