At the second of two sold out concerts at the new Allen Room of the Frederick P. Rose Hall, jazz thrush Jane Monheit revealed her accustomed allure and savvy interpretive skill with a dozen familiar standards. Her voice has a rich silky texture and her tone has a comforting crystal edge.
The lady appears to fit snugly in Gotham’s more intimate rooms. Her turns at the Blue Note, Algonquin’s Oak Room and the swank Café Carlyle provided the required a sultry intimacy that seemed to be in short supply in the virgin concert hall. Sound system is on trial and while the singing was crisp and clear, her spoken comments were muffled and nearly inaudible to those in mezzanine seats.
Approaching her twenty-seventh birthday in a few weeks, it is decidedly a treat to see how she has grown musically in the past few years. She is far more confident and assured as a singer and performer and now avoids some of the playfully kittenish mannerisms so uncomfortably notable at earlier gigs.
Monheit goes the standard route, singing a few numbers from her new Sony CD, “Taking a Chance of Love.” From Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose,” punctuated with a sailing scat, to a plaintive “Over the Rainbow” that took flight with some freshly minted phrasing, she revealed the cunning essence of what interpretive jazz singing is all about.
Best moment was clearly “Haunted Heart” the Arthur Schwartz-Howard Dietz “lost romance” that Monheit wistfully rendered. The songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim are always a lilting addition to the repertoire and the infectious ‘list’ song “Waters of March” hit a high water mark.
The lark had a little shaky pitch problems with the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein serenade to “Bill” and she misappropriated a screen interpretation to Kathryn Grayson. (It was Eileen Wilson who dubbed for Ava Gardner in the 1950 film version of “Show Boat”) Monheit’s musical accompaniment was tidy and sure, but there was a shortage of thrust and kick. Guitarist Mike Okazaki took flight on “Lover, Come Back To Me” putting the Sigmund Romberg operetta plea into an opening act might have comforted some grumbling patrons who appeared to be miffed with the singer’s one-hour turn. A decided plus is a magnificent nighttime view of Central Park South, the city skyline and — weather permitting — a starlit sky.