Jane Monheit: The Girl Already Has It

Jane Monheit is on the cover this month because we bought into the hype and because we needed to Maxim-ize JazzTimes to compete on the newsstand and because we were paid off by her managers and pressured by her publicists and threatened with no advertising from her record label and beaten up by the mobsters she uses to drum up support for her pedestrian albums of vocal “jazz” (air quotes so very necessary to show how disdainful we are of that description in relation to her music).

Or maybe we just think she’s good and this new CD is her best one yet.

Monheit’s manager, Mary Ann Topper, who was characterized as a Colonel Tom Parker type in David Hajdu’s biting piece on the singer in the December 31, 2000, New York Times Magazine, didn’t pressure us or writer Sean Daly at all when it came to the angle we had for this story. “Basically, I showed up, Jane showed up, and the two of us chatted for a couple of hours, alone and with no interruptions. Here’s the truth: She calls the shots more than people realize.”

Still, Daly admits he had questions about Monheit’s openness with the press. “I wasn’t sure how much access I would actually get. I mean, for all her handlers knew, I was just another writer looking to take a cheap shot. So I figured there would be some protection—I was just hoping that her protector wasn’t bigger than me.

“I wanted to find out what it’s like being Jane Monheit during all this rocket-to-fame madness. I was willing to ignore what’s been written until I got to hear her side of things. So much of her press—both positive and negative—is concerned with her legitimacy as a jazz singer, and how she’s merely a wildly successful product of savvy marketing. But there’s been very little written about Jane herself: likes, dislikes, turn-ons, turn-offs, her position on Bea Arthur.”

(Yes, and then there’s Maude: Jane Monheit is a huge Golden Girls fan.)

“The jazz industry should be thanking their lucky stars for artists such as Diana Krall and Jane Monheit,” Daly says. "Anyone—especially such a smart, thoughtful anyone—who stirs interest in an admittedly struggling industry should be applauded. The backlash confuses me. It’s almost like jazz scribes have nothing else to write about.

“Jane is genuinely perplexed by the negativity and the hoopla about her looks and her age,” Daly sighs. “Yeah, she knows she’s hot, and she uses that. Jazz writers would use their looks, too, if they weren’t so ugly.”

Too true, handsome.

(I hope that check’s in the mail, Mary Ann.)

Originally published in December 2002

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