Her latest disc, "Home," includes numbers by such Broadway writers as Rodgers & Hart ("There's a Small Hotel"), Irving Berlin ("Isn't It a Lovely Day"), Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen ("The Eagle and Me"), Jerome Kern and B.G. DeSylva ("Look for the Silver Lining") and Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz ("A Shine on Your Shoes"), plus more contemporary songs by Alec Wilder, Larry Goldings and Cliff Goldmacher.
Knowing that Monheit grew up on Long Island, it got us thinking: What's Monheit's relationship to Broadway and musical theatre?
Monheit confesses, "I was the biggest theatre nerd and always will be. I absolutely constantly dream of doing theatre. Even though I mostly sing jazz, my love of musical theatre is an enormous influence on all of my artistic choices."
Did she listen to cast albums when she was a kid?
"I wore out every cast album," she told Playbill.com. "I learned so much of the Great American Songbook from the stage musicals and musical films that the songs originated in. I also listened to the jazz and traditional pop singers' versions, too, most notably Ella Fitzgerald, but it has always been important to me to be familiar with the origins of a song. Even now, whenever we choose to play a tune, we go back to the original sheet music to get the changes. The harmony of these songs has been altered so much by jazz musicians over the years, and — although we do that, too, at times — we like to start at square one, and honor the composer's intention." Growing up in Bohemia, NY, on Long Island, and studying in Manhattan, Monheit was only a train or car ride away from Broadway.
She explained, "I saw nearly everything on Broadway until I started touring, and saved every Playbill. I miss it horribly. I'm never in town! It would be so hard to name a favorite [show]...certainly Carousel...definitely Into the Woods. I love them all in different ways."
Does she worry that the craft and architecture of American popular song will disappear?
"It's changed, for sure...and that's inevitable," she said. "Great songs will always be written, though, we can be sure of that. People like Larry Goldings, Cliff Goldmacher and Peter Eldridge are writing incredible music that's influenced by the Great American Songbook and everything wonderful that's come since — it's sort of like Volume Two, I suppose."
For more about Monheit's Birdland gig, visit birdlandjazz.com. For more about the albums and work of Monheit, visit janemonheitonline.com.