A career of soulful bliss

// Jane Monheit shares her 11-year passion for jazz with Tacoma

For some artists, 10 years in show business can take its toll. But for jazz vocalist Jane Monheit, a decade of performing professionally is only the beginning.

Monheit will celebrate the 10th anniversary of her recording career by performing her new album, “Home,” at Tacoma’s Rialto Theater April 23.

The collection represents a return to classic, simplistic form in Monheit’s roots as a jazz musician. The CD features the band she has worked with onstage and off for most of her career, as well as special guests such as John Pizzarelli, Mark O’Connor and Larry Goldings. This is her first album for Emarcy/Universal and also marks her debut as sole producer of a recording. Monheit said when launching her career she was confident in her abilities, talent and the industry. But now, she is left with uncertainties about the future.

“I think I have more doubts now because of the economy,” she said. “Now, things have changed. You never know if things will get way worse and live music will be a things of the past.”

Critics hailed “Home” as arguably the loveliest and lightest album of her 10-CD discography. It is also the first album Monheit has made in its entirety since becoming a mother. Her 3-year-old son was born halfway through the recording of her previous album, “The Lovers, The Dreamers, And Me.”

Since becoming a mother, Monheit said she cherishes her career more.

“Every show is like a date with my husband,” she said. “Aside from it being my work, it’s also my mommy break and a chance for me to do something for myself.”

The past decade has treated Monheit well. Noted as an extraordinarily gifted jazz vocalist and favorite in both the jazz and cabaret worlds, Monheit has garnered numerous accolades in the past decade.

Her first album, “Never Never Land,” was voted top debut recording by the Jazz Journalists Association and stayed on the Billboard Jazz chart for more than a year. Later albums either charted high, or in several cases, debuted at number one, and yielded two Grammy nominations in the Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals category, recognizing the work of Vince Mendoza on 2002’s “In The Sun” and 2004’s “Taking A Chance On Love.”

The making of “Home” has been a defining moment in Monheit’s career for different reasons. At 33 years old, she has emerged as a fully complete musician, sole producer of the album, and able to deliver vocals that show a deep maturity.

The entire experience, both deeply rewarding as a producer and incredibly challenging as a vocalist, helped to render a final product that is more true to who Monheit really is than perhaps any of her past projects.

“Albums are like photos. It’s all about where you are in the moment,” she said. “For (Home), there was no studio magic involved. We didn’t have orchestral stuff. We just played the tunes. It was all really old school.”

“Home” opens with “A Shine On Your Shoes,” which Monheit first heard as a child in one of her favorite films, 1953’s The Bandwagon. Guitarist Frank Vignola, a constant collaborator and friend of the band, contributed. Following this song is Monheit’s take on Rodgers and Hart’s “There’s A Small Hotel,” which also features close family friend Joe Magnarelli on trumpet.

The slower “This Is Always” (Mack Gordon/Harry Warren) was recorded by Monheit once before (and later discarded) for her third album, “In The Sun.”

“Tonight You Belong To Me,” Monheit’s favorite track on the album, is the version sung by Bernadette Peters and Steve Martin in the hit movie “The Jerk.” Here, Monheit settles in with John Pizzarelli for a cozy duet, accompanied only by his guitar.

Next is “Look For The Silver Lining,” followed by a rendition of the Alec Wilder/William Engvick ballad “I’ll Be Around.”

Monheit continues with a humorous “Everything I’ve Got Belongs To You,” and a cover of Duke Ellington’s “I Didn’t Know About You” and “All Too Soon.”

Other highlights include a soulful take on Arlen and Harburg’s “The Eagle And Me,” a duet with Michael Kanan on “Isn’t It A Lovely Day,” and sweeping waltz “While We’re Young,” which nods to musical theater and concludes the album.

The only non-standard on “Home” is “It’s Only Smoke,” composed by Larry Goldings and Cliff Goldmacher. On the tune, Goldings plays piano and vocalist Peter Eldridge, with whom she studied during her years at Manhattan School of Music, joins Monheit.

“We’ve been friends for 12 years and I’ve wanted to do something with him for a long time,” she said. “Peter’s voice is one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard in my entire life.”

After more than a decade in the music business, Monheit has learned many lessons about herself and the industry. And often times, good and hard lessons are one and the same, she added.

“For me, it comes down to not letting someone push me around,” she said. “Times are really different now. I’m treated like a grown woman and a musician. It’s a huge relief to be in my 30s because no one can tell me what to do now.”

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