Many artists have beautiful voices with impressive range. Few, however, really consider the words they sing, or dramatize the emotion of the lyrics. Legendary vocalists such as Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan possessed this rare gift, and contemporary jazz singer Jane Monheit seems poised to carry on the torch. Her considerable talent was on fine display during her October 15, 2010 appearance at the McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.
Performing with her longtime trio, Monheit drew heavily from her newest album Home, which marks her debut as a producer and celebrates her tenth year in the music business. Home represents a return to her jazz standard roots after delving into modern pop on her last CD, The Lovers, The Dreamers, and Me. From her opening number, "While We're Young," Monheit demonstrated her confidence and her ability to make a familiar song her own.
Immediately segueing into "Look for the Silver Lining," she showed off another skill--scatting. Not all vocalists can scat convincingly and in perfect combination with the band, and she accomplished both with aplomb. At times flirtatious, at other times the girl next door, Monheit charmed the audience with brief anecdotes about motherhood, recording Home, and life with husband and drummer Rick Montalbano. Her clear, pitch-perfect voice shone on "This Is Always" and "That's All," and evoked the innocent romance of Irving Berlin's "Isn't It A Lovely Day."
Monheit's voice can also take on a sassy tone, as she did with Rodgers and Hart's "Everything I've Got Belongs To You." Her sly grin underscored the humor of lines such as "I have eyes for you to give you dirty looks/I have words that do not come from children's books." But she immediately changed the mood with Alec Wilder's "I'll Be Around," a heartbreaking song about the end of a love affair. Monheit's genuine, emotional performance added weight to such lyrics as "And when things go wrong/Perhaps you’ll see you’re meant for me/So, I’ll be around when she’s gone." Her voice slightly quivered, and she seemed to tear up at the profoundly sad lyrics. After the audience rewarded her with extended applause, she explained that she constantly broke down while recording "I'll Be Around" for Home. At first she did not want to use one of the emotional takes, fearing that fans might think she was faking the crying. Monheit ended up leaving it in because "anyone who has seen my live shows knows that I cry at my songs all the time, so who cares?"