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Review: Jane Monheit

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4 stars

The Cabaret at the Columbia Club, Sept. 16. With its high ceilings, enormous hanging drapery and crystal chandeliers catching hints of lilac light, the Cabaret at the Columbia Club is like a Douglas Sirk movie come to life. You halfway expect Rock Hudson to be at a nearby table. This proved to be an appropriately magical setting for Jane Monheit's vocal jazz stylings. Some singers – Sinatra and Peggy Lee come to mind — are storytellers; this is not Monheit's forte. Her phrasing is made up of an almost abstract expressionistic array of slurs and smudges that use lyrics as means to her emotive ends. It's Monheit's dynamic range that gets you. She can blow like a trumpet or dial things down to a stillness that's seemingly beyond silence, drawing listeners deep into a shared moment of naked vulnerability. On those occasions when she actually does enunciate, as she did on a linked pair of Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes, the effect wasn't just moving – it astonished. Monheit's accompanying trio of piano, bass and drums swung effortlessly, adding tasteful, melancholy flourishes in the heart-struck passages. And when the Cabaret's stage crew pulled back those drapes before the second set, revealing Monument Circle aglow through leaded glass, that somewhere over the rainbow Monheit sings so breathtakingly about, felt like it was in reach. www.thecabaret.org.

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