Jane Monheit

Never Never Land

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Jane Monheit, at 22 years old, has made a stunning debut with the help of some of the finest players in the world: Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, Lewis Nash, David "Fathead" Newman, Hank Crawford, and Bucky Pizzarelli. From her first entrance on the supremely swinging "Please Be Kind," Monheit makes clear that she's the boss, even in such illustrious company. Her voice is about as close to flawless as a human can get, yet she's never coldly technical or aloof. While she's perfectly comfortable with the medium swing tempos of "More Than You Know," "Save Your Love for Me," and "Twisted," as well as the Latin groove of "My Foolish Heart," it are the ballads that really showcase Monheit's gift. If you don't get goosebumps listening to "Detour Ahead," "Never Let Me Go," and "Dindi," you probably don't have a pulse.

The somewhat nostalgic thrust of Monheit's repertoire and style might prove a liability over time. In this sense, the equally young Claudia Acuña, who has displayed considerable arranging and writing chops, is a step ahead of her. Yet Monheit's budding musical adventurousness is made evident by her subtle vocal overdubs toward the end of "Dindi." Her revelatory approach to classic songs is highlighted by her a cappella performance of the seldom-heard introductory verse to "I've Got It Bad." But on future albums, lest she fall into a retro rut, she'll need to work on realizing her potential as a musical risk taker.

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