Several years ago, I remember seeing a young jazz phenom on television and thinking, “wow, she’s really good.” As such, I was excited to see this young chart-topping talent in person at the Kennedy Center. Jane Monheit’s one-night-only concert event included songs from her latest album, Home, several Christmas standards from her holiday album, as well as a few signature tunes from her previous albums. It was an eclectic mix to be sure, but it certainly demonstrated her versatile talent, and her affinity for American standards which defy her young age.
Certainly, at this time of the year, it’s quite possible to get tired of hearing Christmas songs. After all, there are so many holiday concert offerings in the DC area. However, Ms. Monheit’s renditions of songs like “Sleigh Ride,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Christmas Waltz,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” were particularly novel and fresh, if not also technically well-sung. Her “Winter Wonderland” had some nice twists in the phrasing and her “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” a song I normally dislike, was jazzy, energetic, and displayed her great vocal versatility. She made it hard for me to resist smiling during the latter song, which is no easy feat.
However, the highlight of the evening for me was hearing Ms. Monheit sing the song for which she is, perhaps, best known. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” has been covered by many a musician since Judy Garland debuted it. Ms. Monheit clearly connected with the song on an emotional level and for me, came the closest to Ms. Garland in shear vocal talent and expression. Her pianist, Michael Kanan, added a sweet “Silent Night” musical interlude to the song, which made it seem new rather than overdone. It was a musical delight.
Other standouts were songs featured on her latest cd release. All were exquisitely song, but “Silver Lining” and “Shine on Your Shoes” demonstrated her ability to do throwback vocals to an earlier time while still making them interesting and accessible to modern audiences. The complex arrangements for both of these songs added to my enjoyment of them.
Accompanying Ms. Monheit and pianist Michael Kanan, who also arranged several songs, were two other strong musicians- bassist Neal Miner, and drummer Rick Montalbano, who is also Ms. Monheit’s husband. It was clear that all of them have a nice rapport with one another and their comfortable interaction made the evening even more enjoyable and relaxing. Overall, Ms. Monheit has extraordinary musical talent and an even more impressive ability to connect with an audience. Her concerts should not be missed.
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
Jane Monheit played two performances of this one-night-only concert event on December 17, 2011 at the Kennedy Center- 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets to other Jazz at the Kennedy Center offerings, call the box office at (202) 467-4600, or purchase them online.
Watch and listen to Jane Monheit sing “Winter Wonderland” accompanied by Mark O’Connor.
Watch and listen to Jane Monheit sing “The Christmas Song” accompanied by Mark O’Connor.
Watch and listen to Jane Monheit sing “Over the Rainbow.”