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  February 2009
"Jazz Feature Interview" Jane Monheit
Interview by Baldwin "Smitty" Smith

Jane MonheitJazz Monthly:   It is my ultimate pleasure to finally welcome to an incredible singer.  It seems she never takes a night off and any time you catch her live performance or a studio recording, it is a close encounter with a very funky groove.  You have got to check out her latest new record.  It is called The Lovers, the Dreamers & Me.  Please welcome the young lady with the High Def vibe, Ms. Jane Monheit.  Jane, how ya doing, my friend?

Jane Monheit (JM):  Good.  How are you?

Jazz Monthly:  I’m kickin’ it.  It’s so great to talk with you and I’m just totally digging this new record. 

JM:  Oh, thank you.

Jazz Monthly:  It seems like you have just made the Billboard charts a home since the beginning of your career.  And I know it’s not gonna be any different with this great record because, wow, it is a great collection of songs and it just reminds me of a come one, come all because you cover the spectrum of music with Ivan Lins and all these other great artists, Paul Simon, Corinne Bailey Rae.  I mean, how can you not capture the entire audience of music lovers around the world with this great record?

JM:  Well, we’re always hoping to reach a lot of people when we make a record and it was pretty cool making this one.  It was a really different experience because I had a baby at the same time. I was sort of almost less involved with this one than I had been with others in the past.  I was still there for every minute of it, but because I was sort of going through this gigantic life experience for the first time, the making of the record was kind of like a blur to me.  When I listen to it now, I’m just like “Oh my goodness, how did I do that and have a baby simultaneously?”  It’s kind of amazing.

Jazz Monthly:  Yeah, you’re stronger than you thought you were.

JM:  I guess so.

Jazz Monthly: Well, congratulations with the baby. 

JM:  Thank you.

Jazz Monthly:  I think you just had two beautiful experiences at the same time is what it was.

JM:  Yeah, it was really kind of a neat thing because we did the first half of the record when I was nine months pregnant and then we did the second half when my son was about three months old. So it was really neat.  I was two completely different people on these two halves of the record because this absolutely mind blowing thing happened to me right in the middle.  In the first half, all the stuff we did in the first half was the real comfort zone stuff, the stuff that’s the closest to my heart, all the standards and it was all stuff with my own band. The Ivan Lins tune, and then the stuff that we did after my son was born, when the whole rest of my life was all new and crazy, was the new stuff, the pop covers with musicians I hadn’t played with before, so it was kind of really fitting, you know?

Jazz Monthly:  Yeah, well, did you dedicate the project to the baby?

JM:  To him and to Joel Dorn as well.  There’s sort of a little dedication in the liner notes to both of them because Joel passed away actually just a year ago—it was a year ago a few days ago—and he produced my first three albums and we were really, really close….super close.  I mean, he was such a good, good friend and I learned so much from him and I really, really miss him. So I was thinking about him a lot when I was making this record.

Jazz Monthly: Yeah, well, a bit of trivia:  he passed away the same day of the month that—not the same year, but the same day—that Grover Washington, Jr. passed away.

JM:  Oh, really?  I didn’t know.  Oh my lord.

Jazz Monthly: Yeah, so a bit of trivia there, huh?  How ‘bout that?  Well, it is a wonderful record and I felt a deeper appreciation for your talents with this record than any other recording because you were so eclectic but you nailed every song. Sometimes it’s difficult to go from jazz to pop and other genres and really capture the true essence of the song, but you were just spot on with every track and because it evokes memories and you think about the original artists, and then you start to gravitate to your great spin on it, which is a beautiful thing.

JM:  Oh, thank you.  I guess all of these kinds of music that I sort of deal with professionally have all been in my life since I was a little tiny kid.  All these genres of music have been with me my whole life, so it all feels so natural to me.  It feels as natural to me to sing a pop tune as it does to sing a standard.

Jazz Monthly:  Nice.

JM:  And standards are my favorite thing, but I get so much joy out of doing the pop stuff too and really the Brazilian stuff a lot as well. 

Jazz Monthly:  Yes indeed.  Well, I’m so curious, what is it about you and those great Vince Mendoza songs?

JM:  Oh, Vince Mendoza is just, he is such a genius and his arrangements are so incredible and I was sorry we didn’t use him on this album.  We wanted to sort of make a small group record and not do any big orchestra numbers, but I missed it and I play with a lot of orchestras live a lot, you know, always merge where we meet up with different orchestras and play.  I get so much joy out of playing with Vince’s charts and every time we rehearse them and play them in a show, all I can think about is how lucky I am that I get to sing these arrangements for the rest of my life.  I mean, really, because every one of them just brings the tune to such a completely different magical level. His ability to just take you someplace totally new is unequaled.

Jazz Monthly:  Yes, well, I think some of that rubbed off on you because you have been recognized on a very high level doing those great songs.  Be it Grammy nominated artists that are doing those songs, you’re recognized on the Billboard charts regularly because of that, so what a beautiful arrangement.  I’m just so glad you love those songs and we get to hear you sing them.

JM:  Well, I think that’s great to be able to do this, man.  I mean, I realize what a rare thing it is to be able to be a successful musician, and to get to sing this music that I really, really love and I’ve always loved, and work with musicians and arrangers like this. I absolutely appreciate how unbelievable all of this is.

Jazz Monthly:  Yes, it’s totally apparent.

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