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JANE MONHEIT:  LIVE AT THE RAINBOW ROOM

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Jane Monheit, vocals, Alan Broadbent, Conductor and piano
Director:  Tom Case
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio:  N-Coded Music
Features:  pre-concert rehearsal footage, interview, and four-page booklet
Length:  102 Minutes
Release Date:  February 11, 2003

Turn out the stars...turn out the stars...

Let eternal darkness hide me, if I can't have you beside me

Put out their fires, their endless splendor

Only reminds me of your tenderness...

Film  ****

Being a fan mainly of classic rock, blues, and jazz, it is so rare and wonderful when a young artist comes along and has the talent and charisma to reinvigorate the art form.   You can throw away those Norah Jones CDs, because here is a true singer.   She actually sounds a great deal like Sarah MacLachlan, if she had fully learned how to use her voice and sung jazz.

Jane Monheit has been picked on quite a bit simply because she is absolutely gorgeous in an old fashioned classic way, but she handles herself so well on stage and fills the whole room with her voice that only a jealous woman would ever pick on her for being pretty.  Her voice has also been compared to Ella Fitzgerald's, then struck down because she is not as good.  That is completely unfair, because there was only one Ella, and there is only one Jane Monheit.  And just because she is not Ella, does not mean she is not excellent.  Jazz snobs of the world, move to Iraq, please!

The concert opens with Ms. Monheit singing the introduction of Over the Rainbow, a cappella, a gutsy opening if there ever was one.   Then she takes on Duke Ellington's Just Squeeze Me with a steamy sensuality which the so-called pop divas of today can only dream of.  She has cleavage, but barely shows it, and brushing her long red hair out of her face while listening to a solo is hotter than any gesture by any teen queen with a tongue ring and silicone.   Imagine that---subtlety, beauty, and talent.   What decade am I in again?

I had to buy this disc not having any idea how it would sound because of her excellent choice of tunes, including the haunting Bill Evans ballad Turn Out the Stars, which she performs with authority, all sadness and agony but no schmaltz, like a country tune done just right but not overdone or a steak cooked just enough to keep the flavor.  The concert closes with the Bernstein tune Some Other Time, which she uses to close all of her shows.  Her favorite tune here is one of the best:  More Than You Know, taken at a tempo too fast for my taste, but on the other hand proves that she can swing. 

She is also surrounded by an excellent band including the living legend Ron Carter on bass, Kenny Washington on drums, Joel Frahm on tenor saxophone, Rene Toledo on nylon string guitar, musician's musicians all.

Complete songlist:  Over the Rainbow, Just Squeeze Me, Chega de Saudade (No More Blues), Dindi, More Than You Know, Since You've Asked, It Might as Well Be Spring, Tea for Two, Hit the Road to Dreamland, Love Has No Pride, Once I Walked in the Sun, Comecar de Novo, Please Be Kind, It Never Entered My Mind, Turn Out the Stars, Haunted Heart, Cheek to Cheek, Around Us, Waters of March, Some Other Time

Video ***1/2

Not as ambitious as the Diana Krall Paris Concert, the camera angles are simpler, but no problems, no flaws.

Audio ***

I am just disappointed that such a good recording with orchestra was not done in DTS.  Hopefully next time, they will budget for this.  She is supported by a full orchestra, but the balance is good, you can always hear her clearly, and the band is spread all around by the mix.

Summary:

This is not a dream, this is not a test:  a great beauty with a majestic voice performing in New York's hallowed Rainbow Room.  Bravo!