"Jazz Monthly.com Feature Interview"
Jazz Monthly: It is my ultimate pleasure to finally welcome to JazzMonthly.com 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 Mendozasongs?
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.
JM: And now, to get to do it flying around the world with my husband and my son and sometimes the dog too and everything and we’re just this family unit of musicians. It’s so great. My son is already playing with my husband’s drumsticks nonstop and it’s just the most fun. It’s such an amazing life.
Jazz Monthly: Well, just make sure you videotape some of that.
JM: I know. I have to. I need to get a video camera. Can you believe my son is seven months old and I don’t have a video camera yet? Am I a terrible mother or what?
Jazz Monthly: Shame on you! (Both laugh)
JM: I know, I know, but we’ve got more photographs than you could possibly ever even imagine.
Jazz Monthly: Oh yeah, well, that’s the cool old school thing, you know?
Jazz Monthly: Absolutely, and those are treasures that you just can’t put a price on.
JM: Oh yeah.
Jazz Monthly: Absolutely. So now you’ve had so many great experiences and so many great moments in your career, are there some profound ones or even lessons learned, say, from the beginning of your career to now?
JM: Oh gosh, I mean, there have been so many things I can’t even list them all. I mean, there have been people that I’ve gotten to work with that I look back now and can’t even believe that it happened. People that have passed on now like Ray Brown and Tommy Flanagan and, gosh, so many incredible people, and Joel Dorn. I mean, and even now, every time I work with Ivan Lins, even though we’re friends, it’s still to me just like this monumental moment, and people I’ve even just gotten the chance to meet, like Julie Andrews. I mean, the most incredible people. I’ve been very, very lucky. So I can’t even think of a definitive moment because there have just been so many. I’ve been very fortunate. I had a lot of opportunities early on and I don’t know why, but at least I was able to fully appreciate it, thank goodness.
Jazz Monthly: Yes indeed. That’s so important. Well, you’re living a good life and when you’re living good, good things happen, you know?
JM: Yeah, and it’s good to know it, you know what I mean? I’m just glad that I can look at my life and realize that it’s great and not be one of those people constantly wishing for more or that things were better or different or that I was rich or famous or any stupid stuff like that, you know what I mean?
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, absolutely.
JM: I honestly don’t have any of that in me and thank goodness for that.
Jazz Monthly: True that. It gets in the way of the real things, it really does.
JM: It does. I mean, when you’re too busy looking at what you don’t have, you’re never gonna appreciate what you do have.
Jazz Monthly: Well, you made a very good point. An artist once said that to me. She said “I never worry about what I don’t have,” which I think is a beautiful thing, yeah.
Jazz Monthly: Jane, these are 13 of the most fantastic songs that I have heard in some time.
JM: Well, thank you.
Jazz Monthly: Oh, they’re gorgeous and I gotta tell ya, “Slow Like Honey” is just oh….
Jazz Monthly: You were just all in that song. It’s just a beautiful arrangement, just great.
JM: It’s funny because I was a little apprehensive about doing that one because, I mean, I love Fiona Apple and I was obsessed with her first record. When it came out I was in college. She and I are about the same age and I listened to that record nonstop and so her version of that tune is so ingrained in my head that I didn’t know if I could get away from it, and then Gil did this arrangement that just totally made the tune for me, like something totally different and it ended up being cool, but I was nervous going in to do that one. I was just “How am I gonna not just not be Fiona when she’s so awesome?”
Jazz Monthly: Well, that is so true, but you really, really put your spirit and emotion in this song. It’s just gorgeous.
JM: Well, thank you.
Jazz Monthly: That one and “I Do It for Your Love,” what a track, man.
JM: That lyric is so incredible and that’s why I chose that song. I’ve actually been wanting to record that tune for years.
Jazz Monthly: Oh, really?
JM: And the lyric just makes me crazy. It’s unbelievable. And so I thought it was kind of interesting to do that one because actually that’s kind of where the title comes in too. That’s one of the tunes on my record that’s kind of like me extrapolating a little bit. It’s not really like my own life experience. I haven’t really been through that.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah.
JM: And there are several tunes on the record like that, so that’s why I like the title because it sort of lets you know that I’m talking from a lot of different points of view on this one.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, and speaking of the title, The Lovers, the Dreamers & Me. Are you so different from the lovers and the dreamers?
JM: No, not at all, but it’s just sort of like maybe different facets of my own personality or really, I mean, it kind of refers to these different characters that I play on the record.
Jazz Monthly: How cool.
JM: Which is something that I really hadn’t done before. I always used to try to make sure I was singing material that was honest for me and believable for me, but now that I’m older, I don’t know, I realized that I don’t have to always do that, that it’s okay to be a little bit of an actress sometimes, to stretch out in that way and have some fun with music and do a tune like “Something Cool,” which, yeah, I’ve not lived that. Of course I haven’t. Thank goodness I’ve not lived that yet. I hope I never live that. But you know what? I can still interpret the tune and I used to do a lot of theater, it’s still in me, so I enjoy getting on stage and being a little bit of an actress from time to time.
Jazz Monthly: But isn’t that what we did as kids?
JM: Oh yeah.
Jazz Monthly: In front of the mirror or when we were alone, we got into character about things that we loved or admired.
JM: Yeah, and I think it’s just another way to be a good singer. Not every song has to be a soul bearing, heart-on-my-sleeve-like experience moment. I mean, I do a lot of that, but it’s fun to be an actress too. It’s really, really fun.
Jazz Monthly: Oh, I think you said it all when you said it was really fun. I think it’s a gorgeous way of doing music. When I hear “Something Cool,” that track is the kind of song for me that makes me dream, it really does. Makes me think about certain things.
Jazz Monthly: That’s one of my favorite tracks on there. I love them all, but it’s the kind of record that you can just hit random and let it play, and not just listen to the music but feel it, and feel the emotions of every track, and I didn’t wanna do anything when I finished listening to the record. I just wanted to take it all in.
JM: Hmm, well, thank you.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, it’s beautiful. And the record comes out when?
JM: January 20th. It’s out in Europe already. We toured there, actually, last month for it and it was totally cool and really fun, and yeah, the States release is coming up.
Jazz Monthly: So that’s bumpin’ with the inauguration, man. What a time. (Both laugh.)
JM: I know, I know, I know, I’m just like oh yeah, I’m gonna be getting some awesome media attention that day. It’s gonna be rad. (Both laugh.)
Jazz Monthly: Oh my Gosh, that’s something. January 20th, what a day. Well, it’s a day you won’t forget for some time.
Jazz Monthly: Have you started incorporating some of these songs in your dates in the States yet or have you done any of these in the States yet?
JM: Well, the stuff from the first half of the record, definitely, especially because most of it was stuff we were already playing and had developed live for a while before we recorded it.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah.
JM: But from the second half, I’ve really only been playing a couple so far and I have to get them ready soon and now I live four hours away from the rest of my band except for my husband, so I don’t know how we’re gonna do that, so I’ll just have to slowly work them in bit by bit. We’re playing at Feinstein’s at The Regency in The City the first three weeks after the release, so we’re gonna be sort of slowly blending them into the show.
Jazz Monthly: Oh yeah, and the band, well, they’ll kick with it, that’s for sure.
JM: So there. They’re the greatest and the best and put me to shame every day, I mean, the musicianship.
Jazz Monthly: Talk a little bit about the band. Just introduce your guys.
JM: Well, it’s Michael Kanan on piano, Neal Miner on bass, and Rick Montalbano on drums, and it’s guys I’ve been with for a very long time. My husband and I have been playing together since we met when we were 20 pretty much exclusively. We’re just a really good match for each other. He’s one of the rare drummers that actually enjoys accompanying the singer and I learned everything I know about time from him. He’s got impeccable time.
Jazz Monthly: Very cool.
JM: And I’m not—time was always where I struggled a little bit more. My pitch really was good, my time wasn’t as strong as it could’ve been. I used to drag a lot. I still drag sometimes. But I really learned a lot from him. And Michael has been in the band for, Gosh, I don’t know, maybe six or seven years, and we played together for years before that, and he and I are just totally like music soul mates. And Neal is the newest addition to the band. He’s been with us for about a year and a half and basically when he came into the band, that’s when everything sort of settled in and became like perfect. He was the missing piece of the puzzle.
Jazz Monthly: So talk to me about working with Matt Pearson. What was that like?
JM: He was cool, man. I’ve worked with a lot of different producers and it was cool. I like to really kind of do a lot of it myself if I can, but obviously I was a little bit busy with other things (both laugh) when doing this record, sort of creating and giving birth to a human being.
Jazz Monthly: Yup.
JM: So Matt really took care of a lot in terms of getting charts ready and getting revisions together and stuff like that, so that was totally cool.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, and Joe McEwen?
JM: Yeah, I’ve only met him a couple times. He was in the studio a few times and we have yet to sort of like really hang, so I don’t know him very well yet.
Jazz Monthly: Well, everything came together so cool for this record and I know you’re gonna debut so high on the charts with this one because it’s just—
JM: It would be nice. It’s always nice when that happens.
Jazz Monthly: Yes, well, it’s such a slam dunk. I can’t find any other words.
JM: Ah, thank you, and that’s so funny because I’m totally watching basketball right now.
Jazz Monthly: Are you a basketball fan?
JM: My husband and I are like huge Celtics fans.
Jazz Monthly: Oh my goodness. Well, I’m a Rockets fan, but I just love basketball altogether, but my true love, my number one sport: baseball.
JM: Oh, I love baseball too. I do.
Jazz Monthly: Because I grew up in St. Louis.
JM: Oh yeah?
Jazz Monthly: In St. Louis, baseball is part of your upbringing.
JM: Oh, in New York too, man.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, exactly.
JM: In New York too, totally.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, it should be in the school curriculum, I think, you know?
JM: It practically is, man.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, and I just love everything about baseball since I was a kid and love just to see the old ballplayers come out and hang sometimes and listen to them talk.
JM: Oh yeah.
Jazz Monthly: And it’s just so cool, so yeah, I love baseball, just crazy about it. But wow, I don’t meet too many women that love sports. My good friend Koko is a good sports fan, so we text and call and talk about sports all the time. She’s in San Francisco, but wow, that’s cool. Well, I see now why you and your husband are such a great fit. You got a lot in common. That’s very cool. I mean, that doesn’t happen all the time in this day and age.
JM: Well, I became a basketball fan because of him, actually just last year during my pregnancy. It was so funny. During my pregnancy I became obsessed with basketball, I became like this Celtics megafan. I’m so into it.
Jazz Monthly: It helps that they were winning, doesn’t it?
JM: No, it’s not even that. I just love….just the way they play together, it’s totally beautiful. It’s like watching like gorgeous choreography and like they’re just these great guys and two of them had babies—well, not together—at the same time I did (both laugh) and I just love those guys. Like Paul Pierce is like my hero now.
Jazz Monthly: Oh my Gosh.
JM: I love him. When he hurt his leg in the finals, I was just like “No, Paul, I love you!”
Jazz Monthly: Yes, you are a fan. I think it’s cool. Wow, so let’s see, so we get to see you out on the road before too long, right?
JM: Oh yeah, we’ve been touring like pretty much nonstop since August and will be back on the road in January and it’s gonna be a pretty intense year of touring all over the world.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, you have a full schedule. That’s very cool.
Jazz Monthly: I know you may not do it yourself, but I just want to do it for you and congratulate you on this great record and, in fact, your entire band because it is just a tight record and I know everyone’s gonna love it.
JM: Well, thank you.
Jazz Monthly: It’s that good, yeah. And I’m just so thankful that you had some time to talk about this great record and your career, and it’s kind of a dream come true for me because I’ve always just wanted to just talk with you a little about your music because I’ve always admired your music and the way you perform, which is very cool.
JM: Well, thank you.
Jazz Monthly: So again, yes, congratulations on this great record and all the best in 2009 and I will catch you out there on the road before too long and hopefully you’ll have the baby and the pup with ya.
JM: Awesome, yeah, totally.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah. All right, we’ve been talking with the incredible Ms. Jane Monheit. Her great new record drops January 20, 2009. It is entitled The Lovers, the Dreamers & Me. You’ve got to check out this great record. I highly recommend it and please catch one of her live performances. They are like no other. Jane, thanks again, my friend, and all the best to you in 2009 and beyond, my friend.
JM: To you too.