The first time I heard Jane Monheit in concert was in April of 2002 when GAM/Jazz SLC was still housed at the downtown Sheraton.
I wasn't knocked out.
Without question, she had the voice and she was stunningly beautiful. But she seemed nervous on stage and I didn't hear the emotional depth I expected. At the time, she was only 25 years old.
That was then, this is now.
Ten years later, on Feb. 20 at the Capitol Theatre, Monheit returns to the stage for Jazz SLC's Valentine's concert. And oh, what a difference 10 years makes.
Monheit is not the tentative singer I first heard on stage. Her renderings of both romantic and classical jazz have grown tremendously in depth and tone. Her interpretations and arrangements of the music go deeper and her voice and stage presence carry authority.
Her fourth album, "Live at the Rainbow Room" (2003), offered great promise of things to come and her subsequent albums "Surrender" (2004) and "Lovers, the Dreamers and Me" (2010) are solid albums where Monheit comes into her own. The cuts go deeper into the emotional landscape and her voice is enriched with the ability to interpret and express these songs on multiple layers.
There is always a clear danger when an artist attempts to remake a classic. The stakes are higher and one risks the possibility of being compared to the original artist. As an audience, we like to cling to the original, believing that nobody can improve on the perfect song.
Judy Garland gave us "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and with it, an escape to somewhere beautiful and sentimental. But like any musical form, things evolve and Manheit's arrangement of the same song invites us into a different world of equal emotional transformation. Google her on YouTube and be your own judge. While you're at it, listen to her duo with Michael Bublé as they sing Oscar Hammerstein and Otto Harback's 1934 classic. It's all there — poise, control, depth, stage presence and a playfulness that is hard to resist.
Accompanying Monheit onstage will be Michael Kanan on piano, Neal Miner on bass and Rick Montalbano on drums.
Jeff Metcalf is a professor of English at the University of Utah and an avid jazz fan.
If you go …
What: Jane Monheit, Jazz SLC Valentine's concert
When: Feb. 20, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City
How much: $30
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