Two days before Thanksgiving, singer Jane Monheit was back on Long Island for a visit with family before jetting off to India to perform at a jazz festival.
After Mumbai, her upcoming tour schedule includes Washington, D.C.; Portsmouth, N.H.; Palm Springs and Hollywood.
And that’s just through the end of December.
When you’re one of the jazz world’s top singers and interpreters of the Great American Songbook, you’re in demand, and Monheit, who grew up in Oakdale, is surely one of the best.
The Grammy-nominated singer—who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, drummer and music producer Rick Montalbano and their teenage son—will be back on Long Island on Dec. 9, when Monheit brings her holiday show to Stony Brook University’s Staller Center.
It will be Monheit’s first Long Island appearance in five years.
“I’ll definitely have friends and family in the audience,” she said.
Staller Center isn’t far from Oakdale, where Monheit grew up in “an incredibly musical family.”
Her dad played bluegrass banjo and her mom introduced her to singers like Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald, who became early musical influences. (As Monheit grew up, her list of musical muses would come to include singers as varied as Bernadette Peters, Bonnie Raitt, and Whitney Houston.)
Her parents also loved theater and took her to tons of Broadway shows.
“I saw everything great on Broadway in the ‘90s and ‘80s,” she said.
At Connetquot High School, Monheit gravitated to the theater department, which became a second home.
“I found the theater department and learned to fit in,” she said.
She performed in high school musicals and at CM Productions in Oakdale, where some of her favorite roles were in “Pippin,” “42nd Street” and “West Side Story.”
At 17, Monheit headed to New York to study at Manhattan School of Music. At 20, her career took off after she came in second in the Thelonious Monk Competition. Her velvety voice caught the attention of a record label, which signed her, and she was soon singing in jazz clubs.
When Monheit performs at Staller Center, she will be playing songs from her second Christmas CD, “The Merriest.”
The CD features holiday favorites like “Christmas Time is Here,” “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” with a samba beat, and a less obvious choice—a Christmas version of “Stay with Me,” from the Broadway musical “City of Angels.”
Monheit selects all the songs for her CDs, and how that particular tune came to be on the CD sounds like pure showbiz, she acknowledges.
It was after a show in Palm Springs and Monheit was hanging out with friends, including pianist Billy Stritch and David Zippel, who wrote the lyrics for “City of Angels.”
Zippel mentioned how he’d written an alternative Christmas version of “Stay with Me” for Liza Minelli.
“You’ve got to record this,” he told her.
And she did.
So, what’s in store for Monheit in 2024?
She’ll be back in the studio recording a new CD, which will be her 14th.
There’s no title yet, but it will be “a really energetic record,” with some “classic swingers” and songs from an eclectic mix of songwriters from Stephen Sondheim to Jimmy Webb.
You can find a list of Monheit’s upcoming tour dates and purchase autographed copies of her CDs on her website, janemonheitonline.com.