Jane Monheit

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Jane Monheit

Birdland, NYC, February 26, 2020

Reviewed by Ron Forman

Jane Monheit

Is Jane Monheit a jazz singer or is she a cabaret singer? She meshed both identities together marvelously in her latest show at Birdland.

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Monheit brought a unique interpretation to every song, making each selection from the Great American Songbook feel new and delightfully different. She is a true jazz singer, and one who also possesses a great sounding voice and phrasing unlike any other vocalist. However, in this show, the songs were performed in the intimate, softly romantic manner of a great cabaret performer. Her quartet is made up of four wonderful musicians: Michael Kannan (piano), Perry Fisher (guitar), Neil Miner (bass), and Aaron Weinstein violin) .

Weinstein’s violin accompaniment as well as his solos were especially notable in creating the mood. Monheit moves gracefully across the stage for each number and her facial expressions compel you to keep your eyes on her. Her patter is limited but often amusing,

Monheit opened with a softly swinging “Nobody but Me,” featuring solos by Weinstein and Miner, followed by a very stylized “Stars Fell on Alabama.” She slowly sang the verse of “Let’s Take a Walk Around the Block,” then sped up the chorus. She spoke briefly about the film The Band Wagon and its star Fred Astaire before offering her up tempo version of “A Shine on Your Shoes,” displaying her remarkable ability to scat. With only Kanan accompanying her, Monheit did a torchy, tears in her eyes, ultra-dramatic “He Needs Me.” An amusing story about sitting on the floor in her grandparents’ home listening to and singing along with jazz recordings led into “Honeysuckle Rose.” Her unique phrasing made her performance of “Stardust” different from any I have heard. Weinstein’s arrangement of “Avalon” and his and Fisher’s solos made the 100-year-old song seem fresh and new. Her closing number was a soft and beautifully sung “Some Other Time.” Before her encore, she remarked that she couldn’t decide whether to come back for the encore as a jazz or as a cabaret singer so she combined both in a jazzy “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” in the manner in which he had performed it with John Pizzarelli.

Ron Forman

Ron Forman has been a Mathematics Professor at Kingsborough Community College for 45 years. In that time, he has managed to branch out in many different areas. From 1977 to 1994 he was co-owner of Comics Unlimited, the third largest comic book distribution company in the USA. In 1999,after a lifetime of secretly wanting to do a radio program, he began his weekly Sweet Sounds program on WKRB 90.3 FM, dedicated to keeping the music of the Great American Songbook alive and accessible. This introduced him to the world of cabaret, which led to his position as a reviewer for Cabaret Scenes.