always the jazz singer

jane monheit. photo by vincent soyez.

That was the year her debut recording, Never Never Land, surfaced. It was a versed sampler of standards sung with worldly confidence and backed by a support team that boasted such esteemed instrumentalists as bassist Ron Carter and pianist Kenny Barron, as well as the famed saxophone alliance of Hank Crawford and David “Fathead” Newman. The latter two were known for their groundbreaking work decades earlier with Ray Charles.

All in all, the recording was an impressive way of establishing one’s intentions as a vocalist. But then, Monheit, who was 22 at the time, was used to that. She spent her childhood plotting a singing career. She wasn’t shy in telling people about it, either.

“I pretty much knew that was going to be my vocation from the time I was tiny,” said Monheit, who makes her Kentucky debut next weekend with performances in Louisville and Richmond. “When I was a toddler, a pre-schooler, I knew I was going to be a singer. I told anyone I knew that.”

A lifelong New Yorker, Monheit absorbed the vocal inspirations of numerous pioneers in shaping the dynamic and romantic foundations of her own singing. Ella Fitzgerald was, and still is, obvious. You can sense shades of her vocal exuberance, lightness and phrasing in the giddy version of A Shine on Your Shoes that opens Monheit’s recent Home album. But an early fascination and respect for the singing of Judy Garland (“because of the way she fearlessly expressed emotion”) and a legion of Broadway-based vocalists (Barbara Cook and Bernadette Peters, among them) also made Monheit a favored draw in New York cabaret rooms.

But here is a curious addition to Monheit’s stylistic dossier: bluegrass. Her father was a banjo player instructed by Tony Trischka, one of the instrument’s foremost educators and performers. The links don’t stop there. Among the many artists that have struck up lasting alliances with Monheit is Mark O’Connor, the versatile classical and jazz composer/instrumentalist who was bred on bluegrass.

So prevalent was bluegrass in her youth that Monheit found herself at something of a crossroads early on between jazz and bluegrass/folk paths for her career.

“I grew up with a strong attachment to bluegrass,” Monheit said. “I went to more bluegrass shows than jazz shows as a kid. For awhile, I thought, ‘Man, do I want to be the next Maura O’Connell (the Irish-born folk singer who established a strong bluegrass/Americana fanbase after relocating to Nashville)?’ I mean, I was really into it.

“That’s why artists like Mark are heroes of mine. I could have died when he called me to play on In Full Swing (a 2003 O’Connor album of gypsy jazz and swing music that had Monheit singing standards like Fascinating Rhythm, As Time Goes By and Misty). Now when we play together, I’m always like ‘Can we play something folky like Love Has No Pride (a tune popularized by Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt)? What a way to work together. Mark wants to play jazz and I want him to play folk music.” 

Still, it is within jazz circles that Monheit’s vocal work has been best displayed. Among other early collaborators was trumpeter Terence Blanchard, who recruited Monheit as one of four champion vocalists (along with Diana Krall, Cassandra Wilson and Dianne Reeves) for his 2002 album of Jimmy McHugh songs, Let’s Get Lost.

The latter project – in particular, a beautifully hushed reading of Too Young to Go Steady – reflects the intimacy of her own fine recordings. While Monheit is more than at home in elegant orchestral settings, it is in small combo settings, like the one that dominates much of Home, that her singing truly glows.

As a result, it’s not surprising that she views her band – pianist Michael Kanen, bassist Neal Miner and drummer Rick Montalbano – as family. Granted, that’s a somewhat literal estimation as Monheit and Montalbano are also husband and wife. But the birth of the couple’s son Jack in 2008 also underscored the sense of kinship she feelst with Kane and Miner.

“Outside of parents and grandparents coming to the hospital, they were the first two people to hold my son when he was just a couple of days old. That says a lot about the kind of relationship we have. And I know that makes the music even more special.”

Jane Monheit performs at 8 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Clifton Center Eifler Theatre, 2117 Payne St. in Louisville ($33, $35) and at 8 p.m. Jan. 28 at the EKU Center for the Arts, 521 Lancaster Ave. in Richmond. ($25-$35)..

I’m 45, but Susan has made me feel 18 again; SELF.

Daily Mail (London) December 9, 2002 | Anderson, Amy Byline: AMY ANDERSON AS PART of our Matchmaker series, Self’s dating experts sent Susan Hinde, 40, an administration manager from Merseyside, on a date with Andrew Weavis, 45, an aircraft engineer from the West Midlands.

They met for dinner at The Hilton Hotel, St Helens, Merseyside.

Name: Andrew Weavis.

Age: 45.

Lives:West Midlands.

Children: Gemma, 18, and Donna, 15.

Job: Aircraft engineer.

Salary bracket: pound sterling40,000 to pound sterling50,000.

Height: 5ft 8in.

Favourite film: Blazing Saddles.

Currently reading: Old Gods Almost Dead by Stephen Davis.

What three words best describe you: Sensitive, fun and romantic.

Favourite items of clothing: My jeans and leather jacket.

What would be your ideal holiday: Malaysia.

Your most embarrassing moment: Walking smack into the glass door of a packed pizza parlour.

What is your worst habit: Being too soft.

What trait do you most deplore in women: Lying.

Relationship history: I divorced recently. site electrical engineer salary

Name: Susan Hinde.

Age: 40.

Lives: Merseyside.

Children: Robert, 19, and Jennie, 15.

Job: Administration manager.

Salary bracket: pound sterling15,000 to pound sterling20,000.

Height: 5ft 2in.

Favourite film: Somewhere In Time.

Currently reading: The Year Of Her Life by Liz Ryan.

Three words which best describe you: Creative, romantic and loyal.

Favourite items of clothing: Pink jumper and black leather trousers.

Ideal holiday: A Nile cruise.

Most embarrassing moment: I bought some shoes but picked up two different sizes.The shop assistants couldn’t stop laughing when I took them back.

Your worst habit: Smoking. site electrical engineer salary

Trait you most deplore in men: Drunken loutishness.

Relationship history: I married my childhood sweetheart in 1985 and we divorced in 1995. I’ve been single for six months.

Type of man you’re looking for: Someone intelligent, adventurous and funny, who’ll sweep me off my feet.

_To take part in Matchmaker, send a recent photo, contact details and answers to the questions above to Matchmaker, c/o Self, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT.

Andrew says: THE evening began rather badly because I couldn’t get into my hotel room with my key and all my belongings were inside. Reception tried with their spare keys but it was no good. I ended up being 45 minutes late.

Susan is beautiful. She wore a stunning dress and looked fantastic. She is great company, very attractive and funny.We talked about everything from past relationships to our children, careers, music, our cats and even football.

Before I knew it, nearly five hours had passed.

During the rest of the weekend, I met Susan’s children, her cats and her lovely parents,Wyn and Les, who all made me feel very welcome.

Susan also took me on the ferry across the Mersey – something I’ve always wanted to do. It was a wonderful weekend in the company of a very special person. I’m 45 but I feel like an 18-year-old again. I have not stopped thinking of Susan since we parted.

Susan says: I ARRIVED slightly early, feeling rather nervous, and saw a man looking over. But it turned out he was the photographer, who told me Andrew hadn’t changed yet and was locked out of his hotel room upstairs. I had a vision of him running around in his dressing gown, laughed and settled down with a drink to wait.

When Andrew arrived, I couldn’t believe my eyes: he looked so lovely.

He gave me 12 red roses, which was the most romantic thing anyone has done for me for a long time. I felt an instant spark between us.

After the meal, we went into the hotel lounge. In the middle of our conversation, my mobile rang. It was my daughter, Jennie, who was worried because it was past midnight. The time had gone so quickly that I hadn’t realised.

On Sunday, I took Andrew into Liverpool to go on the ferry across the Mersey. Everything felt very natural and we joked and chatted all the time.

It was really cold, too, so we snuggled up together.

When we arrived at my house, Andrew gave me a cuddly sheep that he’d sneaked out and bought earlier in the day. I collect sheep.

Andrew works in Edinburgh every other week, so we arranged for him to visit again in two weeks. Then we hugged and said goodbye. Later that night, he telephoned and we spent half an hour chatting. I can’t wait to see him next weekend.

AMY ANDERSON Anderson, Amy

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