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Music

Jane Monheit swings in tribute to Judy Garland

| Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 8:50 p.m.

Jane Monheit and Judy Garland share a great skill.

“She could really swing,” Monheit said of the singer she called her “first hero.” She then proceeded to show she could do the same.

Monheit brought her tribute to Judy Garland to the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side Saturday night. Monheit admits Garland is thought of more as a show singer than a jazz performer, but she insists her predecessor added a great deal of jazz to her work.

Using the material that makes Garland famous, she added even more jazz.

The show rolled through a great collection of songs, from “Swingin' at the Savoy” — which Monheit said was Garland's first recording — to “Over the Rainbow,” of course.

She did the latter with its wonderful introduction, which most performers ignore.

In fact, she did many of the introductions to songs such as “I Wish I Were in Love Again,” which helped make the show not only a tribute to Garland but to good songwriting, too.

Remember, these songs were written back when lyrics were close to poetry.

In tribute fashion, Monheit explained some of the reasons songs were chosen, but it wasn't presented in a chronological or academic fashion. Her words were more like banter, and helped move the show along.

Her chatter also was rather humorous. When she introduced “The Sweetest Sounds,” she commented that Richard Rodgers had written both the music and lyrics, which she said was unusual.

“But why would you write lyrics when you have guys like Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein sitting around?” she added.

The show went through a great number of familiar songs such as “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart,” “How About You?” “The Boy Next Door” and “Sunny Side of the Street,” which she blended with “Get Happy.”

They were not done with great amounts of improvisation, but all were loaded with vocal twists that gave them freshness.

Besides that, her pure mezzo-soprano voice is capable of moving from the upper register to the bottom with no loss of discipline. Her tone is crisp and she has a nice sense of song.

She was accompanied by a trio of pianist Michael Kanan, bassist Neal Miner and drummer Ricky Montalbano, also her husband.

They all took brief solos throughout the set, each standing out on “The Sweetest Sounds.”

As an encore, she offered a song she said Garland never did, but one that seemed appropriate: “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead.”

Bob Karlovits is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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