LIVE: Jane Monheit @ The Egg, 11/20/15

Review by Steven Stock

“I just had to wait on this,” confided jazz chanteuse Jane Monheit during her compelling performance at The Egg’s Swyer Theatre last month. “I had to be old enough. (Now) I’m 38 – married – with a kid. I think I can pretty much sing whatever I want at this point (laughs)… I really thought it was time to finally pay tribute to Ella, so I put together this show to celebrate her Song Book albums, which were so important to me. We’re so excited about this because it’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.”

Paying homage to the First Lady of Song may prove to be a good career move for Monheit, but it was clear that this was first and foremost a labor of love. The evening was an unalloyed success. Monheit sang beautifully, but that was to be expected. The real surprise of the evening derived from the inventive new arrangements that her superb trio played, breathing new life into familiar warhorses such as Rodgers & Hart’s “Bewitched,” Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood.”

Other selections were less obvious. Bassist Neal Miner came up with a sprightly new arrangement for Irving Berlin’s “I Used to Be Color Blind” and dramatically recast the lush melodicism of Billy Strayhorn’s “Day Dream.” Nicholas Payton, producer of the forthcoming album, arranged a new version of the Gershwin’s “I Was Doing All Right.” “I just had no idea what was gonna happen,” said a happy Monheit. “He brought something completely different to this tune, made me sing in a completely different way – and that’s not easy!”

Pianist Michael Kanan (who some of you may recall from a productive stint with Little Jimmy Scott) also contributed new arrangements (cf. Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”) and managed to navigate Monheit’s not-so-occasional digressions with aplomb while drummer Rick Montalbano kept a steady pulse throughout. A wise move, since he’s married to the singer. Perhaps the evening’s only misstep was closing with Porter’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” a piece of method acting (method singing?) which left Monheit in tears and didn’t exactly have the rest of us dancing in the aisles.

How about closing with “Get Happy” next time, Jane?

Where or When (Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart)
All Too Soon (Duke Ellington/Carl Sigman)
It’s All Right with Me (Cole Porter)
I Used to Be Color Blind (Irving Berlin)
Bewitched (Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart)
Something’s Gotta Give (Johnny Mercer)
I’ve Got You Under My Skin (Cole Porter)
Day Dream (Billy Strayhorn/John La Touche)
Somebody Loves Me (George Gershwin/B.G. DeSylva/Ballard MacDonald)
I Was Doing All Right (George & Ira Gershwin)
Let’s Face the Music and Dance (Irving Berlin)
All of You (Cole Porter)
I Ain’t Got Nothin’ but the Blues (Duke Ellington/Don George)
In a Sentimental Mood (Duke Ellington/Emanuel Kurtz/Irving Mills)
From This Moment On (Cole Porter)
Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye (Cole Porter)

1 Comment
  1. Mary R. says

    Jane did sing beautifully, but her mannerisms on stage (near-constant hair play) distracted from my enjoyment. I found that if I closed my eyes, the experience of hearing Jane and her trio was just sublime; watching Jane, not so much.

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