Jane Monheit was born on November 3rd, 1977 and grew up in Oakdale, Long Island. Little Jane started singing as soon as she could talk, and enjoyed singing songs such as “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and “Honeysuckle Rose.” Jane’s family was musical: both her aunt and grandmother were professional singers; her brother was a rock guitarist; her father was a banjo player, with a penchant for bluegrass music; and her mother was involved in musical theater.
With jazz records always playing on the family turntable, and the musicality of her family, it is little wonder then that Jane’s attention turned to jazz music. Jane’s love and interest in music continued in elementary school, where she studied the clarinet and music theory.
It was also during elementary school that Jane discovered her love of performing. She would write, produce, direct, and perform her own little theatrical productions for anyone willing to watch. She would also spend countless hours listening to her parents’ jazz records, including Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, and Joni Mitchell, who became her main vocal influences. She soon realized that singing jazz was what she wanted to do with her life.
During her high school years, Jane spent her spare time performing in local theatrical and musical productions. Her formal vocal training began at the age of 17, when Jane attended the renowned Manhattan School of Music. Under the guidance of eminent vocal instructor, Peter Eldridge, founding member of the influential vocal group New York Voices, she learned to develop her natural vocal gift.
While studying in New York City, Jane performed in the cabaret scene in Greenwich Village, gaining experience and honing her craft. But it was her college boyfriend, Rick Montalbano — whom she married in 2002 — who directed her toward the jazz scene, by getting her to sing for his jazz quintet, which played frequently at a club in uptown New York.
Jane’s breakthrough year was her senior year in college, when she was just 20. With strong encouragement from Eldridge, she entered the 1998 Thelonious Monk Institute Vocal Competition. That night, in front of a music industry-studded crowd, and an impressive panel of judges, including Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Nneena Freelon, Diana Krall, and the late Joe Williams, all of Jane’s dedication and hard work finally paid off.
She finished the competition first runner-up, becoming the youngest person ever to hold that distinction in the history of the Monk competition. The fact that she came in second place to jazz veteran Teri Thornton is not too shabby at all.
Among the music industry crowd that night were Carl Griffin and Mary Ann Topper. Griffin, head of A&R (artists and repertory) for the multimedia company N2K, and president of spin-off record label N-Coded Music, offered Jane a recording contract then and there. Topper, who helped launch the careers of Diana Krall, Michel Petrucciani, and Joshua Redman, offered her services as manager.
Shortly after the competition, Topper invited Grammy-winning producer Joel Dorn to hear Jane sing at a showcase in New York. So impressed was Dorn with Jane’s vocal ability and stage presence, that he agreed to produce her first album after hearing only one song.
Jane’s stylish debut album Never Never Land, released in October 2000, featured such jazz luminaries as Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, Lewis Nash, Bucky Pizzarelli, Hank Crawford, and David “Fathead” Newman, who provided the perfect musical setting for Jane’s smooth, silky soprano. The album garnered rave reviews among jazz and non-jazz circles alike.
She’s been compared to Ella Fitzgerald and Diana Krall, but Jane forges her own path to stardom with her delicate phrasing and uncanny ability to capture the meaning and essence of a song.
To date, Jane has recorded three full-length albums: Never Never Land (2000), which reached the Billboard Jazz Top 10 within weeks of its release; Come Dream With Me (2001), which enjoyed some time at No. 2 on Billboard’s jazz chart; and In The Sun (2002); as well as a DVD, Live at the Rainbow Room (2003).
In 2003, the song “Since You’ve Asked,” from In The Sun, was nominated for the Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals Grammy.
She is currently touring all over the U.S. promoting her album and paying her dues, and her popularity is rising with every performance, with shows booked until April 2004.