Jazz and Judy

Four Questions for Jane Monheit

Updated (10/13/15): In just over fifteen years, critically acclaimed vocalist Jane Monheit’s silky phrasing and natural knack for storytelling have earned two Grammy® nominations and established her as one of the most beloved and accomplished vocalists on the scene. Jane’s sincere and romantic interpretations of songs have made her a favorite in the jazz, cabaret, and Broadway worlds. With a range and vocal skill rarely heard today, she is as comfortable singing Lennon/McCartney and Randy Newman as she is with Ivan Lins and Cole Porter. In the second decade of her career, she has undertaken ambitious projects in a variety of styles including the debut, October 13th through 17th, 2015, of “The Songbook Sessions: Music of Ella Fitzgerald.” Special guest, Nicholas Payton, trumpeter and producer of Jane’s forthcoming Ella recording, joins the band Saturday, October 17th.

“Everything I’m singing now is a reflection of my truest self,” says Monheit. “Growing up, listening to music and singing along with records was the greatest joy of my life. Beyond any other artist, I loved and revered Ella.”

In the brief 2014 interview, below, Jane discussed her tribute to Judy Garland as well as the broad musical taste for which she has been celebrated:

BL: What do you have planned for your Sunday early-evening residency at Birdland?

JM: My regular band will be appearing with me every week, Michael Kanan on piano, Neal Miner on bass, and Rick Montalbano on drums. I’m also hoping to have plenty of special guests and friends of the band sitting in. The repertoire will be a mix of everything, past and present, including songs from our show, “Hello Bluebird: Celebrating The Jazz of Judy Garland.”

BL: How did you come up with the idea of exploring Judy Garland and jazz?

JM: The idea to pay tribute to Judy’s jazz side came out of a single song, a performance she did of “The Sweetest Sounds” with the Count Basie Orchestra. She loved jazz, and was a truly swinging singer. So I thought it would be fun to get away from the drama and celebrate that facet of her musical personality.

BL: In fact you’ve had great success, especially in recent years, navigating several styles which are related to but distinct from jazz, how have you approached the challenge of branching out?

JM: I can’t say there have been challenges. I’ve really only chosen songs that are a natural fit for me, whether they’re from the Great American Songbook or beyond. The lovely surprise, however, is how much the audience likes the unusual choices. I’ll go directly from Harold Arlen to Ivan Lins to Paul McCartney, and no one bats an eye. It’s beautiful how open everyone’s ears are.

BL: What are you listening to lately?

JM: I’m listening to an awful lot of Joe Williams and Sammy Davis Jr.

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