Jane Monheit: Modern day jazz songbird


When Jane Monheit first came on the music scene in 2000, we were taken in by her warm, soothing vocals and perfect pitch. At only 22 years old, Monheit vocalized far beyond her youthful years with the skill and maturity of a well-seasoned performer. In fact, at first listen, you’d think you were listening to a songstress well in her 40s. Monheit sings with a crystal clear crispness and a fine-tuned vocal control that very few can accomplish.

More than Monheit’s voice

Monheit is best known for taking jazz standards and reworking them into modern-day musical masterpieces. The Long Island-born chanteuse has the uncanny ability to re-style a song well-known because of its original artist and make it her own. Monheit has a musicality that is second to none in her genre. Jane credits Ella Fitzgerald as a muse, spending much time as a child and adult studying the craft of jazz through hours of listening to Fitzgerald’s albums. She pays tribute to her “teacher” in her latest album “The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald.”

Bringing up Jane-y

Coming from a family of singers and musicians, it’s no surprise that Monheit would follow suit. Her love for music began as a small child listening to music from the backseat of her parents’ car.

Later, she studied voice at the Manhattan School of Music, under Peter Eldridge. After receiving many awards and accolades, Monheit debuted with “Never Never Land” in 2000.

Critics and jazz lovers alike were awed by the depth of maturity and ability in Monheit’s vocal delivery. She wasn’t just another pretty face with a pretty voice in a pretty dress. She had a rare heavy hand in designing the instrumentation herself and directing the music.

Jane’s Dreamland

Fans were chomping at the bit to see what Monheit would do next. She did not disappoint, releasing her second album “Come Dream With Me” soon after in 2001. Here, she revamped old classics ranging from Judy Garland to Joni Mitchell. Monheit has a knack for taking the work of completely different genres and rearranging them in such a way that they flow with fluidity within the same album.

One of Monheit’s best-known works that stands timeless today is her 2003 concert “Live at the Rainbow Room.” It was an unforgettable evening filled with a passionate, heartfelt performance beyond her years.

An original: Jane Monheit

Although Monheit is known for covering the songs of other artists, she preserves the integrity by making them her own musically. Some of you may remember the controversy over her version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Katharine McPhee used the song in 2007 to impress the judges on “American Idol.” She seemingly made no attempt to correct them when they assumed the new version was her “signature” own.

Monheit’s original version circa 2001:

McPhee’s 2016 redeliver:

Monheit was flattered by the imitation but was vocal on social media that credit was not given to her as the “original” artist.

Still, Monheit continues to create fresh “new” music out of old classics and tours regularly. With 13 albums to choose from (and counting), she is definitely a well-worthy listen for a quiet evening at home or whatever suits your fancy.

Jane lives with her husband, jazz musician Rick Montalbano Jr., and their son in New York City. Included in her 13 album credits are a holiday collection, two “best of” titles, “Taking a Chance on Love,” and “In the Sun.”

Photo by ataelw, 2013, via Flickr

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