Jane Monheit has the goods and always did. But she was so quickly anointed heir apparent to Diana Krall, it made even her a little nervous, not to mention unleashing a backlash...
Jane Monheit has the goods and always did.
But she was so quickly anointed heir apparent to Diana Krall, it made even her a little nervous, not to mention unleashing a backlash in the jazz press after her initial splash.
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Now that the dust is settling, it’s clear the sexy, 27-year-old chanteuse is a young artist with some growing to do, but one of our best talents, nonetheless.
In some respects, Monheit’s very youth was what made her so delightful on her opening set Tuesday at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley ($20.50-$24.50; 206-441-9729).
Though not always in control of her material, Monheit projected the sunny, happy image of a girl having a lot of fun with life, which netted her many admiring “you go girl” gazes around the packed room from middle-age women as well as ogling men.
A tall, big-boned gal trimmed to a T, Monheit wore a frilly, low-cut blouse, tight pin-striped slacks and high heels. She performed with a four-piece rhythm section that included Port Townsend native Miles Okazaki on guitar.
Monheit covered the musical waterfront, from Broadway and jazz tunes to a song in Portuguese and a couple of seasonal favorites.
At one point, singing with piano accompaniment only and leaning against the instrument, Monheit stilled the house with her billowing soprano and natural instinct for romance on “Bill,” the classic ballad from “Showboat.” Her deep musical-theater background also served her well on the cheeky Fred Astaire number, “I Won’t Dance.”
Monheit’s full, clear voice nicely enveloped “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” the last of which, she pointed out, was popularized by Judy Garland a profound influence in the film “Meet Me In St. Louis.”
Monheit did well with such sentimental, emotionally stylized fare. Jazz and standards were another story.
On “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Taking a Chance on Love” and the bossa nova classic “Chega de Saudade,” her tempos felt hurried and the band a little helter-skelter. Though it was winning that she took a lot of expressive chances with scat-singing and scrunchy vocal ornaments, her time did not feel grounded.
Digging deeply into the nuanced wisdom of jazz takes time. At this point, Monheit’s more in a league with the late Susannah McCorkle than with Krall.
And speaking of McCorkle, who sometimes used to sashay her skirt as she sang, Monheit appears to have taken to heart recent criticisms of her girlish stage mannerisms. Gone Tuesday night were the hand-parked-on-hip and hair-flipping that have annoyed people in the past, though she was unable to resist an occasional starlet-like sweep of the hand through her luxuriously long, dark-brown hair.
Monheit has a bright future. You could glimpse that in her version of the ambivalent and wordy Jobim classic, “Waters of March,” which showcased both confident jazz chops and emotional maturity.
Monheit plays through Sunday. If she’s not your cup of tea, you might check out Patricia Barber, the sophisticated, noir singer/songwriter/pianist whose new live album, “A Fortnight in France” (Blue Note), is hip and smart. The Chicago jazz lady plays the Triple Door at 7 and 10:30 tonight ($22; 206-838-4333).
Over at Gallery 1412, at 8 p.m. tomorrow, another Chicagoan, saxophonist Ken Vandermark, plays in an explosive, all-star quartet of free-jazzers that features British trombonist Paul Rutherford, German-turned-Canadian bassist Torsten Müller and Vancouver drummer Dylan van der Schyff ($15; 206-322-1533 or www.gallery1412.org).
The Triple Door also has the Jacob Fred Odyssey at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, a curious trio that combines the jazz/rock piano trio feel of The Bad Plus with a wild assortment of sounds created by Reed Mathis’ octave pedal-induced bass ($12; 206-838-4333).
Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or firstname.lastname@example.org