Sunday, April 07, 2013

Concert review-Jane Monheit

Last night I went to see jazz singer Jane Monheit at Koerner Hall in the Royal Conservatory of Music in downtown Toronto. Here's the difference between Esperanza Spalding and Jane Monheit. Esperanza is breaking down the boundaries of jazz. Jane is a singer in the firm tradition of June Christy or Julie London. Singers have been interpreting jazz standards for decades. She's not trying to reinvent the wheel. I have known about her for a decade. She has recorded for N-Coded, Epic, Concord, and she currently records for Universal's jazz label EmArcy. Her new CD The Heart of the Matter will be out this week. She's had the same band for years with her husband Rick Montalbano on drums along with Michael Kanan on piano and Neal Miner on bass. As a bonus, the special guest was violin legend Mark O'Connor. I'm pretty sure most of the audience had never heard of him. As a long time music geek, I have known about him since the 70s. He started out as a sideman for French jazz violin legend Stephane Grappelli. But he built his reputation playing on hundreds of sessions for everyone from Emmylou Harris to Wynton Marsalis to Pinchas Zuckerman. His 1996 CD Appalachian Waltz with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and bassist Edgar Meyer won a Grammy. He has recorded with Jane since 2003. The theme of the concert was The Great American Songbook and that's perfect for Jane Monheit. O'Connor came out early in the show and dazzled the crowd with his virtuosity. I was not surprised. He started the second half of the show with a lengthy solo improvisation based on Mr. Tambourine Man. I think his skill drew the audience in and Jane seemed more relaxed in the second half of the show. And we also got a guest appearance by local jazz singer Matt Dusk that was apparently arranged on Twitter earlier in the day. My friend asked me if I knew about him. Of course I do. He's a Toronto native so he's a big deal here and he's big in Japan. You may have seen him leading the band on Mark Burnett's reality show The Casino. He currently records for Decca and released a new CD last month. He's probably not distinctive enough to compete with that other Canadian export Michael Buble. It sounded like the crew didn't have the chance to do a sound check with him as he was too loud. I think he moved the mic around too much. To close the show, Jane announced that she would sing a blues. It was the Lambert, Hendricks & Ross classic Twisted. That's blues? It's more like vocal bebop. But Jane Monheit can sing any song in her own style and the band is a well oiled machine. A singer doesn't have to expand the boundaries of jazz to be great. And Jane is a great singer with perfect pitch and diction. It was a solid show.

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