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Jane Monheit: In the Sun

Roger Crane By

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Poor Jane Monheit. She violates two major commandments of jazz: thou shalt not become popular and thou shalt not be pretty. This combination — together with her youth — has evidently created suspicion (and maybe “sour grapes”) in the minds of some jazz fans, critics and even a few musicians. After all, jazz performers must have a daytime gig. Right? Popularity and quality cannot coexist. According to such thinking, since Monheit is a hit in the market place, she must therefore be a “pop” singer. Additionally, female jazz singers should look like Sarah, Ella, Anita or Dinah. Each of these ladies was certainly fine looking and each is a marvelous singer, but they are not considered pretty in the traditional sense. Again, to such thinking, prettiness and quality also cannot coexist. Jazz singers are not permitted to be both popular and pretty. Strike two for Ms Monheit.

Well, Monheit is drop-dead gorgeous with full pouty lips and Rapunzelian hair, but she also has a fine jazz pedigree, having attended the prestigious Manhattan School of Music at the age of 17 to study voice (while gigging all over New York City). She entered the 1998 Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition and came in second (to the 63-year old jazz veteran Teri Thornton). On finals night a plethora of agents, jazz writers, record producers, and talent scouts witnessed the new voice and the new lovely girl in town. Jane's career was now right on track.

Monheit is now 25 and In the Sun is her third CD. It follows her two previous highly acclaimed recordings, Never Never Land and Come Dream With Me and is indisputably her best. She has developed a love affair for Brazilian music and performs three on this CD, including the song from which the CD title is derived, “Once I Walked In The Sun,” penned by Ivan Lins, who duets with Jane in parallel harmonies. This is an exceptionally lovely vocal track and one of many highlights of her new CD. In addition to the Brazilian composers, she also covers Duke Ellington, Leonard Bernstein and Irving Berlin and a seven-minute achingly beautiful version of Rodgers & Hart’s “It Never Entered My Mind.” Monheit even performs the old ‘70s rock classic “Love Has No Pride,” written by Eric Kaz and Libby Titus and popularized by Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt. Monheit is seemingly an uncomplicated and joyful young woman and her optimism and her youthful delight do not enable her to mine the Schwartz-Deitz classic “Haunted Heart” for deep emotion or to transfigure hurt and confusion. Let’s just say that she does not sound “haunted.” But this is minor quibbling and she brings a vibrancy and glee to "Just Squeeze Me" and "Cheek to Cheek," Best of all, perhaps, is her affecting, vocally pure rendering of the Bernstein-Comden-Green "Some Other Time" (written for the musical On the Town ), featuring strings arranged by Alan Broadbent.

Jane Monheit is not just beautiful; she is a magnificent and elegant singer. She has a crystal clear voice and an unerring sense of pitch and that voice invites the listener into an emotional and warm world. Monheit once said, “for the most part, I’m coming from joy.” There is nothing wrong with that. This old world can use more joy.

Her stellar accompanists include pianist Kenny Ascher, bassist Ron Carter, trumpeter Tom Harrell, drummer Kenny Washington, tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm and orchestrations by Alan Broadbent and Vince Mendoza.

Highly recommended.

Track Listing: 1. Just Squeeze Me (Ellington/Gaines) - 4:01 2. Chega de Saudade (No More Blues)(Lees/De Moraes/Hendricks) - 3:17 3. Once I Walked in the Sun (Jennings/Lins) - 5:26 4. Some Other Time (Bernstein/Comden/Green) - 5:07 5. Cheek to Cheek (Berlin) - 4:48 6. Tea for Two (Caesar/Youmans) - 4:21 7. Love Has No Pride (Haz/Titus) - 4:31 8. Come

Personnel: Jane Monheit - Vocals Ivan Lins - Piano, Vocals Alan Broadbent - Conductor/Arranger; Strings, Brass and Reeds Ron Carter - Bass Vince Mendoza - Arranger (Strings, Brass, Woodwinds) Rene Toledo - Percussion, Duet, Guitar (Nylon String) Don Alias - Percussion Kenny Washington - Drums Kenny Ascher - Piano, Duet Tom Harrell - Trumpet

Title: In The Sun | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: N-Coded Music

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