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Dave Brubeck Quartet and Bill Smith at the Earshot Jazz Festival

L to R: Joshua Redman, Cassandra Wilson, Brad Mehldau, Regina Carter, K.D. Lang

It took a while (a couple of months longer than the rock community) but the jazz community finally responded in an organized fashion to the horrors that befell New York on Sept. 11 with the devastating attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Billed as “Made In America,” this all-star jazz benefit was intended to honor the heroes and victims of that tragedy. The gala event (tickets ranged from $65 to $150) was also the official unveiling of Jazz Alliance International, the organization of jazz industry professionals that presented the evening concert.

The fast-paced production registered more high notes than low notes, with a few surprises tossed in along the way. Joe Lovano opened the evening with a quartet featuring drummer Lewis Nash, bassist Christian McBride and pianist Jason Moran on a surging rendition of Ornette Coleman’s “Broadway Blues.” Immediately thereafter, he slipped out a side door of Town Hall to make his own gig at Birdland, just a couple of blocks away on 44th Street. Next up was vocalist Jane Monheit, who turned in a sensuous, if histrionic, reading of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” accompanied by Kenny Barron on piano, Ron Carter on bass, Lewis Nash on drums, Terence Blanchard on trumpet. While the confident young singer has a stunning look and a great set of pipes, she doesn’t particularly convey a jazz aesthetic either in her phrasing or attitude. She shows an impressive command of her instrument, to be sure, but is lacking that mysterious X-factor that makes, say, Betty Carter or Sheila Jordan a jazz singer. Call it sly syncopation, rhythmic daring, an organic sense of being able to internalize a song and put one’s own personal stamp on it. Or just call it plain hipness. Whatever it is, Ms. Monheit ain’t got it. Instead she comes across like a well-trained cabaret singer, or at best something along the lines of Julie London in her “jazzy” 1950s sessions for Verve with Barney Kessel and company.

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