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Jane Monheit: Costa Mesa, December 16, 2005

Jim Santella By

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Jane Monheit
Founders Hall
Orange County Performing Arts Center
Costa Mesa, California
December 16, 2005

The allure of Jane Monheit isn't about flash and dazzle and publicity and her good looks. It's about her music and the way that she communicates with her audience so naturally. She's so comfortable before an audience that she makes you feel free enough to enjoy the music without regard for what's around you. Founders Hall is a great setting for live jazz; make no mistake about that. But Monheit could perform just about anywhere, and she'd make you feel as if you've just stepped next door to chat with the neighbors. You're as comfortable as you want to be, and you're free to enjoy what Monheit has to offer without distraction.

Beginning and ending on the West Coast, her four-month tour in support of her Christmas album must have brought her to thousands of fans who feel the same way. In front of an audience, she brings great music that comes all wrapped up in personal messages. Monheit isn't one to frown, look away, or close her eyes in order to concentrate on which note comes next. She's genuine. And her virtuosic singing comes naturally; along with a flexible range, accurate ear, perfect timing, and spot-on articulation.

The Friday night concert began with "Sleigh Ride and included nine more selections from The Season, plus two special pieces that accentuated the special ambience surrounding her performance. By interpreting a lovely Jobim theme in Portuguese and following that with an endearing interpretation of "September in the Rain, the singer opened doors to her soul. And that's what it takes to reach an audience.

Backing Monheit for her Christmas celebration were: her husband, Rick Montalbano, on drums, Michael Kanan on piano and electric piano, Miles Okazaki on guitars, Orlando Le Fleming on double bass, and guest Ari Ambrose on tenor saxophone. Together, they knitted traditional holiday music with straight-ahead jazz in a memorable affair.

Photo Credit: Jos L. Knaepen

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