Review: Jane Monheit & Band Bring Smokin' Hot Music to Smoke Jazz & Supper Club

Engaging engagement runs tonight through Sunday, May 19 at 7 and 9 pm

By: May. 17, 2024
Review: Jane Monheit & Band Bring Smokin' Hot Music to Smoke Jazz & Supper Club
Get Access To Every Broadway Story

Unlock access to every one of the hundreds of articles published daily on BroadwayWorld by logging in with one click.

Existing user? Just click login.

Although Jane Monheit’s engagement at Smoke Jazz and Supper Club, which runs through Sunday May 19, is the splendid singer’s first booking at the venue, she certainly didn’t need a map or GPS to find her way.  That’s because she had lived a stone’s throw away for many years and was a frequent customer.  The shimmering chanteuse mentioned these facts a few times during May 15’s opening night at the cozy room along Broadway near the corner of West 106th Street.  Where there’s Smoke, there’s fire and the instrumental trio seemed to be on fire with its sizzling playing that was often dazzlingly fleet, fierce, and even frenetic (in a good way).  They are: pianist Max Haymer, who created most of the arrangements, bassist Karl McComas-Reichl, and drummer Curtis Nowosad.  

Songs that were first heard decades ago further south on Broadway, in the scores of musical theatre productions, were prominent in the early part of her set which features material from Jane Monheit’s soon-to-be-released recording.  She opened with a high-energy jazz treatment of the title number from 1965’s On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and it was clear from the start that she was in fine, robust voice.  Shortly, we heard three items from musicals debuting within months of each other (1955 and 1956). “Too Close for Comfort” from Mr. Wonderful was Ms. Wonderful’s second powerhouse romp. “Whatever Lola Wants” from Damn Yankees let her play the playfully sultry seductress character as her voice and body swirled. Also in the set was a welcome change-of-pace ballad:  “Young and Foolish” from the musical Plain and Fancy, wisely including the introductory verse.  

Review: Jane Monheit & Band Bring Smokin' Hot Music to Smoke Jazz & Supper Club

Smoke is an attractive room with its stage surrounded by striking red drapery and this gig has a red-hot band with a "Wow" factor.  Musical muscularity and speed can be undeniably impressive in showpieces by jazz artists, with or without words, and the long-established performer can scale the heights skillfully, scat, and swing strongly, but her strongest suit, arguably, is her affinitably for silky ballads. When she settles into the sensitive stuff, with caring phrasing of lyrics about love or loss, without overly embroidering them, it’s heavenly. That happens with  “Young and Foolish,” the reflective look back at an early romance. The same commitment and poignancy were brought to a pop classic, “And So It Goes” by Billy Joel.  The audience was hushed and rapt.  The smiling lady remarked that she, like that songwriter, was brought up on Long Island and that its residents proudly consider him their “patron saint.”

The repertoire included Brazilian numbers (she’s a fan of songwriter/performer Ivan Lins) with a sprinkling of the original lyrics in Portuguese, mixed with English and scat choruses.  A special treat was a jazzed-up version of “In a World of My Own” from the 1951 animated (Disney) film of Alice in Wonderland.  And, getting back to Broadway sources, there were two impactful samples of Stephen Sondheim scores, with “Not a Day Goes By” and “Green Finch and Linnet Bird.”  The latter, addressed in Sweeney Todd to singing caged birds by a character who understandably feels frustratingly trapped herself, is a perspective that songbird Monheit responded to in the early days of Covid lockdown.  

Occasional little “oops” moments were met with a brief mood-breaking laugh, shrug, or indication of apology that brought undue attention, but kept a casual mood.  “Things happen,” she commented when a clip for the mic was a problem. When she was brought a new one, she addressed the man on hand to hand it to her by name, and cutely on cue burst into the title line of a Joni Mitchell song with his name, “The Last Time I Saw Richard.” It made me wish she’d sing the whole thing.  But, then again, I’d be happy to hear this J.M. sing anything by that J.M. …or almost anything.      

Tickets to the remaining Jane Monheit shows tonight, Saturday and Sunday at 7 and 9 pm are available on Smoke Jazz Club's website.


To post a comment, you must register and login.