As of April 24, jazz enthusiasts had no choice but to surrender to Jane Monheit. 'Surrender' is the seventh studio release for the sultry vocalist but it's her first release on Concord Records.
Monheit's last two releases Taking A Chance On Love and The Season were released via Sony's Epic Records label and the 29-year-old had originally jumped ship from the small Manhattan label N-Coded, where she released her debut album Never Never Land.
"It can be difficult as a jazz artist to find the right home. I'm a particular sort of artist that requires a certain thing. It's kind of jazz, but its kind of not, and it appeals to a lot of different audiences," says Monheit. "It's harder for me to properly find my niche at a label, so I moved around a lot."
Monheit has risen to fame at a staggering pace, from releasing her debut album in 2000 at the age of 22, to the present, in which the vocalist has seven records under her belt and two Grammy nods for arrangements on her albums.
"I think about that and I'm just like, 'wow I've got a Best Of... record already,'" she laughs. "It's crazy, but it's wonderful you know I was very fortunate to have my opportunities to get into this business come early. I was just finishing college. It was perfect timing."
Monheit had already been working as a jazz singer in New York. She was about to start her senior year of college in 1998 when her perfect opportunity came along. Every year the Thelonius Monk International Jazz Competition features a different instrument, and that year it was vocals. Monheit entered the competition and placed second, behind only a 64-year-old woman. It was this unprecedented age gap that scored the young vocalist just as much attention as the first place winner. It was at this time that Monheit met what would be the management for the small Manhattan label where she recorded her debut album.
She has continued to move around making well-received albums and earning acclaim in the jazz community and Surrender is no different.
The record was produced by Jorge Callandrelli (Celine Dion, Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand) who was a perfect fit for Monheit.
"He really understands where I'm coming from as a musician and treats me as a musician. He never ever tells me what to do," say Monheit. "I wouldn't be able to deal with that," she laughs.
Surrender's repertoire features a selection of music from the 1960s and onward which is a change for Monheit, but it is a welcome one as her personal music tastes have grown and changed as well.
"Everything in my life that inspired me and influences me is different now, so in turn the album has to be as well so I chose what I sort of think of as modern standards and dealt with it that way and it was great."
Perhaps one of the most welcome changes to Monheit's recording and producing process was the chance to record the album with her own band, which is something she got to do on her Christmas release, but not any of her other major studio releases. She makes it clear that recording the album with her bandmates is of the utmost importance to her and her music.
"I can understand it for my first album. Here I am this 22-year-old kid, they're terrified, they don't know how the album is going to sell," says Monheit. They want to get some star power on there but really when it comes down to it, you're always going to make the best record with your own band."
Another thing that she is pushing with the new album is the ongoing Brazillian theme that has been prevalent throughout her career. From singing songs in Portuguese to just becoming more engaged with Brazillian beats and styles of music in the recording process, there's a definite move to creating a more eclectic and stylistic set of songs. Working with top artists from Brazil doesn't hurt either. Monnheit got to record her third duet with Brazillian mega-star Ivan Lins on Surrender with "Rio de Maio."
Having the people that have influenced her so much sitting in the studio with her was a definite push toward a more passionate and well-rounded album. Another big name Monheit got to work with was Sergio Mendes, who produced "So Many Stars."
"It's another one of this situations where I was just like, 'that's Sergio Mendes sitting right there! Oh my god!' and of course we were recording a song he had written, which made it even more special."
Over the course of her already illustrious career, Monheit has worked with big name producers and arrangers, earned her acclaim in jazz music being compared to legends like Ella Fitzgerald, and even recorded a song ("Over The Rainbow") that was featured in a movie (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow) and with a brand new album out at the tender age of 29, she shows no signs of stopping.
For more information please visit www.myspace.com/janemonheit.
Writer: Joe Chammas