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Jane Monheit: The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald

Edward Blanco By

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Long Island native and vocalist Jane Monheit pays tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, one of the most enduring jazz singers in history and a very influential figure in Monheit's own musical career. The singer had long thought about recording a homage project to Fitzgerald and on The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald, Monheit finally accomplishes this releasing the album on her own Emerald City Records label. Produced and arranged by Nicholas Payton—who did not originally intend on playing in the recording, but eventually did—the trumpet icon impressed upon the vocalist that she be comfortable and just be herself as this is not about a comparison, but the exploration of a different, and unique approach to time-honored material from a great songbook.

The album presents a selection of twelve songs whittled down from twenty-five classic Fitzgerald standards that Monheit had original considered. On tap here are love songs from jazz icons Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer and the Gershwin brothers among others. Fronting a core quintet on the majority of the tracks, Monheit's back up include among others are, long-time band mates Michael Kanan on the piano and Neal Miner on bass, while drummer and husband Rick Montalbano, rounds out the rhythms section.

From Fitzgerald's Duke Ellington Songbook, Monheit begins the tribute with the song "All Too Soon," delivering a sensuous sultry performance she repeats on "Somebody Loves Me" and on other tracks. Mercer's oft-recorded "Somethings Gotta Give" is one of the highlights of the disc featuring Payton's high-pitch trumpet voice, percussions from Daniel Sadownick and the singer's reaching vocals. The most ambitious track of the set is the medley "I Was Doing All Right / Know You Now" once again featuring the percussionist as well as harpist Brandee Younger on a beautiful blend of songs.

The Richard Rodgers standard "Where or When," receives one fine treatment here with Monheit's velvet voice leading the way on perhaps, the most up tempo and liveliest tunes of the recording. Irving Berlin's "I Used to Be Color Blind" was a particularly special song for the singer to record because it was one of the tunes her late grandfather had wanted her to record but she never did while he was, and does so now, with the pianist and bassist being pronounced on solid solo statements.

The tip of the hat concludes with the well-known standard, "I've Got You Under My Skin," and Porter's lesser known "This Time the Dream's on Me." Jane Monheit is clearly a superior singer and her performance on The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald is conclusive evidence. The album is actually a tribute to two distinctive singers, one majestic voice from the past and one powerfully impressive songstress of today.

Track Listing: All Too Soon; Somebody Loves Me; Chelsea Mood; Somethings Gotta Give; I Was Doing All Right / Know You Know; Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye; Where Or When; Ill Wind; All Of You; I Used To Be Colorblind; I've Got You Under My Skin; This Time The Dream's On Me.

Personnel: Jane Monheit: vocals; Nicholas Payton: trumpet; Michael Kanan: piano; Neal Miner: bass; Rick Montalbano: drums; Daniel Sadownick: percussion; Brandee Younger: harp

Title: The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Emerald City Records

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