January 1, 1970Just one piece again this week, a Q&A with vocalist Jane Monheit. But the next couple of weeks promise to be busy.
Also, Monday night I'll be on a Jazz Journalists Association panel discussing "The Past, Present and Future of Live Jazz in Boston" with singer Rebecca Parris, pianist-composer Donal Fox, Steve Charbonneau of WGBH radio, and impresarios Fenton Hollander of the Real Deal Jazz Club & Cafe and Fred Taylor of Scullers. Jon Hammond of WRIU-FM will host the event, which will take place at Scullers between 6:30 and 9 p.m., with free admission and a cash bar.
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Jane Monheit heats up the jazz world with her personal interpretations
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | November 26, 2004
Jane Monheit's "Taking a Chance on Love," her fifth CD and her first on Sony Classical, has been riding as high as No. 1 on the Billboard jazz charts since its early September release and is currently No. 5.
It's the singer's best effort to date and sure to provoke a fresh round of hyping (Down Beat's December cover dubs her "The 'It' Girl") as well as sniping (from critics who think her too young and pretty to possibly be authentic).
Monheit, who turned 27 earlier this month, gets help on the disc from some big names, such as Christian McBride, Ron Carter, and Geoffrey Keezer. She also sings a duet with fellow 20-something Michael Bublé and gets full-fledged orchestral backing on three pieces, including a bonus track version of "Over the Rainbow" that she recorded for the movie "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow."
We checked in with her for a chat in advance of her performance tonight at Sanders Theatre.
Q. One of the things that lured you to Sony was that they were willing to give you artistic freedom. So it was your decision to bring in ringers like Christian McBride and Lewis Nash?
A. "The record company will basically say, 'All right, we need to have this much star power on the album. Who do you want it to be? How do you want it to go?' One of the fun things about making a record is being able to play with people that you normally never get to."
Q. When young, good-looking jazz singers — Harry Connick, Jr., Diana Krall — start making it big, there is often a backlash.
A. "Oh, you know it."
Q. How do you respond to something like that?
A. "I mostly ignore it. The one thing that just always really got to me was, number one, people only talking about what I looked like, and number two, people saying I'm too young. Who cares how old I am?"
Q. Who are some other young singers you consider your peers?
A. "I really like Mike Bublé. Sometimes he gets flak just because of the kind of entertainer he chooses to be, but that doesn't change the fact that he's got a hell of a good instrument. I'm a big fan of Jamie Cullum. He's doing really interesting things with music, and he's bringing this rock-star persona to jazz."
Q. How did you go about choosing the tunes that are on the new CD? Do you spend a lot of time studying the Great American Songbook?
A. "For me, it's pointless to look through a fake book and go, 'Oh, gee, that song would be good for me.' That's silly. They have to find you. The songs that you sing have to be associated with experiences or with memories. And if you let them just drift, one by one, into your life, you end up with a much more meaningful repertoire."
Q. Let's talk about some of the songs on the new CD and why you chose them. "Over the Rainbow" has become a signature piece for you.
A. "It was the first song I ever learned. My parents have recordings of me singing that when I was barely 2 years old, and on the end of my second album is a recording of me when I was 3 singing it, like a little bonus thing. It's really cute. That song is the most special song in my life."
Q. "Honeysuckle Rose" is the jazziest tune on the album.
A. "When I was really tiny, my grandfather used to teach me to identify all these tunes. So he'd put on all these different recordings of 'Honeysuckle Rose' or something — it was his little parlor trick. But I just love the tune. It's really fun to sing, it's really bright, it's got a really flirtatious lyric."
Q. "Bill," which you do as a duet with your quintet's pianist, Michael Kanan.
A. " 'Show Boat' was a really special musical, because it dealt with some really heavy subject matter. The character that sings 'Bill' is going through a painful period in her life. She's a drunk, her life as a performer has basically been ended because people have found out that she's biracial. So that musical has always stood out for me."
Q. "Do I Love You?" was arranged for an orchestra and conducted by Alan Broadbent.
A. "He's one of my favorite arrangers and one of my favorite accompanists. And I just thought that he was a beautiful match with that song. It's a beautiful Cole Porter ballad, gorgeous, and the introduction that he wrote makes me think of 'The Wizard of Oz.'"
Q. One more: "Embraceable You." Were you thinking of Billie Holiday's version?
A. "Actually, my thing with that song is really different than what most people would think. The reason I wanted to record it is because that was my mother's lullaby to me when I was a baby. So when I'm singing that song I'm thinking of it in this maternal way. I'm imagining myself holding my future child."
© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company