Sometimes, being second-best isn't all that bad. That's how 23-year-old jazz singer Jane Monheit finished in the 1998 Thelonious Monk Jazz Vocal Competition, losing out to veteran Teri Thornton. Critics applauded Monheit's appearance, and within two years she had her first recording contract. Jane Monheit is constantly expanding her repertoire, but for now she's right at home singing jazz.
One of the first songs Jane Monheit remembers singing was "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" when she was two years old. She says it was the kind of music she grew up listening to, so it came to her naturally. Her whole family sang, but she admits she was the only one that sang jazz. Having a career in anything but jazz never entered her mind.
Jane Monheit was born and raised in Long Island, New York. While still attending high school, she got her first singing job, performing at a wedding. Jane began formal training at the Manhattan School of Music and picked up part-time work as a nightclub singer.
Then came the Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition. For the finals, she sang "I Wish You Were Love," "Lover Come Back To Me" and "Detour Ahead." Taking second place didn't phase her. She says, "Things wouldn't have been any different for me if I'd won." And so far things have turned out just fine.
Jane Monheit sings ballads, swing, pop and blues. She says love songs are her favorite. The ballad titled "So Many Stars" is from her new release "Come Dream With Me." It features Kenny Barron on piano, Michael Brecker on saxophone, Christian McBride on bass and Gregory Hutchinson on drums.
Jane Monheit's career is in full swing. In addition to the release of her second solo album, Monheit appears with jazz vocalists Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson and Diana Krall on Terence Blanchard's critically-acclaimed tribute to songwriter Jimmy McHugh, "Let Get Lost." And she's currently on a tour that will take her to more than 25 cities in Europe and the U.S. over the next three months. This weekend she'll appear at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, and at the Top of the Senator in Toronto.
Jane Monheit's new album "Come Dream With Me" recently debuted at #1 on Billboard's jazz chart.