With her latest album, The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald—the first to be released on her own Emerald City Records—Long Island native Jane Monheit has surprised even herself with her artistic leap. Blessed with “a voice of phenomenal beauty.” – Stephen Holden, New York Times
On this new album, Monheit pays joyous tribute to Ella while sharing a definitive portrait of herself, guided by her producer, arranger, and trumpet great, Nicholas Payton. “This record is really different. It’s the first recording I’ve made without a label and so I was able to make all the decisions myself. Honestly, when I listened back to the takes, I heard a different singer than I’ve heard before—a more mature one. It was a little scary because there’s a certain raw quality to some of the vocals but we gave no thought to fixing them. These were the vocals of a 38-year-old woman with a lot of life experience.” Throughout the recording, Jane’s gorgeous upward swoop is pure Ella, her earthy wordless phrases pure Sarah, but this album is a classic example of a singer leading her influences rather than being led by them.
Jane Monheit was born on November 3, 1977. She was raised in Oakdale, New York, on Long Island’s South Shore. Her aunt and grandmother were professional singers. Her mother performed in musical theater and currently performs in local choirs, and her father plays banjo and guitar. His love of bluegrass, folk, and acoustic blues (Bonnie Raitt and Maura O’Connell were among his favorites) shaped her musical sensibility.
Jane spent her childhood summers at the Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts, from which she received a distinguished alumna award (other notable alumni include Natalie Portman, Mariah Carey, and Taylor Dayne). Throughout her years of public school, she studied clarinet and music theory and performed in theatrical productions both at school and with her local community theater group. Jane went on to study voice at the Manhattan School of Music with Peter Eldridge, a founding member of the vocal group New York Voices. She graduated with honors in 1999 and received the William H. Borden Award for outstanding accomplishment in jazz. Then, at the age of 20, Jane became first runner-up in the 1998 Thelonious Monk Institute’s vocal competition behind the late, great Teri Thornton. Soon after, Jane released her stunning debut album, Never Never Land, featuring Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, and Lewis Nash. The first of four recordings for N-Coded—a label founded by Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen with Phil Ramone—the album was voted Best Recording Debut by the Jazz Journalists Association and stayed on the Billboard jazz chart for a year.