Jane Monheit: Never Never Land

If as much attention had been paid to the content of Jane Monheit’s debut CD as was lavished on its glamour-girl packaging, Never Never Land would have made a far stronger impact.

In her senior year of voice study at the Manhattan School of Music, Monheit entered the 1998 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition in Washington, D.C., and finished second, runner-up to the late Teri Thornton. Monheit has a rich, vibrant voice and strong musical instincts, and she’s supported here by a sextet of stellar instrumentalists, including Kenny Barron, Hank Crawford, David “Fathead” Newman and Bucky Pizzarelli. But the CD’s overworked 10-song repertoire unfairly forces the 22-year-old to attempt to leave her mark on material definitively recorded by others, including Annie Ross (“Twisted”), Tony Bennett (“My Foolish Heart”) and Irene Kral (“Never Let Me Go”). Imaginative charts would have helped, but, as Monheit admits in the liner notes, “Most of the songs weren’t arranged at all. We went in and they happened.”

Never Never Land indicates the young singer’s potential, which she could realize with fresher material and more thoughtful production.