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Jane Monheit: Finding the Way Back Home

By Published: January 4, 2011
AAJ: Why do you think this album happened now?

JM: Well, you know, for a couple of reasons. Number one, I think the main reason is because of my band. Because right now, that has changed a lot over the years; everybody that has been with me over the years, all of these men (I have never had a female sidemen before, actually, which is weird...although I'm such an alpha female, I do like being surrounded by the boys; you can say I'm just a big nine-year-old boy), they are just my brothers, and every single one of them has been over the years, from the first band until now. But right now it's really the perfect thing for me, musically. My pianist and my drummer, Rick Montalbano, the three of us have been together almost from the beginning. My husband Rick and I have played together since the day we met; I've never barely played with anyone else since I met him, because we're just the perfect musical match, just perfect. It has nothing to do with the fact that we are married. If we hated each other we still would have played together nonstop since then, because it's too great. Nothing would get in the way of that. And my pianist, Michael Kanan, and I have a really special bond, which is why we do a duet on every single album and in every show; it's a really special thing.

But our bassist, Neal Miner, came to us a little over three years ago, and it really completed us. Because I have had a lot of incredible bass players over the years, but you can put a lot of amazing musicians together and it doesn't always click. Or it does, and then you sort of change over the years and you want a different kind of click after that. And that's kind of where it's been. I've got a lot of great bands, but the idea of what I wanted sort of changed. But anyway, right now is so beautiful playing with these guys, and because of the style of all of our playing leaned back towards playing standards. For a while it had been when we played tons of Brazilian stuff and tons of pop music, and that was amazing too, but that was that time, and this is now. So this record is really inspired by my band, and because this part of me has never gone away and I haven't done it in a while. This is what I want.

AAJ: What is Home? If you had to present your album to anybody that never heard it before, what would you say Home is?

JM: It's a classic vocal jazz album, in a lot of ways. But then there are elements of it that really make it me. The fact that there is like a random non-standard on there is only smoke, that leans a little bit more to like a pop thing. Totally random. The fact that there's a couple of tunes that have big musical theater influence in them is totally random, and that's what makes it me. It's because as much as I want to make a record, one thing from beginning to end, totally homogenized and everything that sells well, and what the public likes, I can't do it, I have to throw in there the weird stuff. I can't not do it.

AAJ: What can you say about the track selection?

JM: They are just everything I loved at the time. I've always chosen all my songs since the very beginning, and it's always just what I'm into at that moment. It's that simple, it's never hard to choose songs. And if it were, there's something wrong. If it was impossible to think of what I wanted to sing then it would not be time to make a record. You have to do it when you are ready, and likely I'm ready pretty frequently. I'm already thinking of what I want to do on the next one [laughs].

AAJ: It sounds like a non-stop process.

JM: Oh, yes, it really is.

AAJ: Do you ever have time to sit back and enjoy what you just did?

JM: Not really. I did before I had a two-year old; now there isn't time to sit back and do anything because he's a wild man.

AAJ: The first song I heard from this album, that I actually was really curious about, was "This is Always," because I loved Irene Kral's version of it, and it is one of my favorite songs.

JM: Me, too, that's my favorite one. That whole record with Junior Mance
Junior Mance
Junior Mance
[Better Than Anything (Fresh Sound, 1963)], I love that record. Actually, I recorded that for my third album, In the Sun (N-Coded Music, 2002), and I was going to title the album This is Always. But then I didn't want to use it, because it just wasn't exactly what I wanted, and I am glad I waited, because now this arrangement that Neal Miner, my bassist, did for the tune, is so amazing. One of the reasons why I wanted to do it—and this is what I talk about live, when I do the tune—is that one thing I hear from people, constantly, I am not kidding you, is that people have used songs we have recorded to be the first dance at their wedding, or they walked down the aisle to it. Things that we have recorded have been featured on a lot of people's weddings, which is something I am so proud of. It's amazing that your music can be part of something that's so important to someone.

It's like I said before: it doesn't matter, you can take four geniuses and put them together and it won't make a very good band at all. So it was really important to me to make this record this way. It's part of the reason why it's called Home. Another thing is that people really responded to the music Mark and I did together and just the one thing I did with John Pizzarelli for Legends of Jazz, people talk to me about it all the time. And the work I have done with Frank Vignola, too, and I have no words for him; I love that man. He is just so brilliant. It was important to me to revive these music relationships and do something else, keep it going.

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