Vocalist Jane Monheit, given some solid marketing, could easily make the transition, ala Michael Buble, from jazz vocalist to crossover artist. Why more efforts haven’t been put forth by her record labels into moving her towards greater recognition is a bit perplexing; not only does she have a velvety smooth voice and carefully articulated vocal gestures, but she’s got a sound as bright as a sunrise and as clearly intoned as any of the great jazzers who have come before her. With a pedigree that includes being first runner-up, at the early age of 20, in the 1998 Thelonius Monk Institute vocal competition, Monheit certainly has the chops deserving of a broader audience. Home, which is both easily accessible and cheerfully delightful, celebrates her tenth recording anniversary, and does nothing but reaffirm all of the above.
Produced by Monheit alone, Home gives us a glimpse into what one can only hopefully believe will be the work we can look forward to her doing in the future. Putting her voice inside of, rather than on top of, the backing ensemble pays off in dividends not imaginable on her earlier recordings. For example, on the second chorus of "Look For The Silver Lining," she is brilliantly coy. As she builds her phrases, one upon the other through the use of dynamics and scat singing, not only does she bring forth memories of Ella Fitzgerald, but more importantly one is brought face to face with a vocal grace and lilt sorely missing in her contemporaries.
Even when Monheit gets darkly serious, as on "I’ll Be Around," one can’t help but be blown away by not just the delivery, but also by the emotion she packs into each of the lyric’s lines. By moving the song into an openly rubato section prior to the out-verse, she allows the small breaks in her voice to have the same emotional impact as when Michael Jackson dug deep into his soul on the stellar "She’s Out Of My Life." The comparison is worthy as both of these artists are, on these tunes, working at the height of their abilities.
On the up-tempo side even the way too short yet delightful ditty, "A Shine On Your Shoes," which opens the disc, finds new relevance. It’s on tunes like this one, which are interspersed throughout the disc, where one wishes Monheit had opened it up a little bit more and taken some solo choruses. Leaving extended scat work to only her live dates deprives the buying public of hearing one of the best, if perhaps not the best, improvising vocal artists of her generation.
There are a few missteps, but even these are performed with such great care for intonation, balance and musical aplomb that they are only missteps when compared with the rest of the recording. For example, her duet with guitarist and vocalist John Pizzarelli, which is superbly arranged, breaks up the flow created by the surrounding tracks more than offers a change of pace. That and a few other tracks aside, this is one incredible disc. If you don’t know this artist, start here and then go back through her catalog, the effort will be well rewarded.