Jane Monheit, she of the luscious voice and easy-going stage presence, is back vocalizing at Jazz Alley this weekend. And though she’s famous for burnishing jazz standards, don’t be surprised if the 35-year old New Yorker slips a few unexpected tunes into her set from other genres.
Her new CD, “The Heart of the Matter,” mixes it up with a Buffy Sainte-Marie folkie favorite (“Until It’s Time for You to Go”), a Beatles medley (of “Golden Slumbers” and “The Long and Winding Road”) and a Randy Newman tune Sarah MacLachlan crooned for the animated film “Toy Story 2 (“When She Loved Me”).
Monheit’s eclectic song choices follows a continuing trend of woman singers,labelled as jazz artists, freely genre-hopping for material — as a way of broadening their audience, and/or just keeping things interesting for themselves.
Consider Madeleine Peyroux’s latest disc, “The Blue Room.” The guitar-strumming singer with the Billie Holiday lilt and a touch of Edith Piaf in her voice, covers some country and western classics on the album (i.e. “Take These Chains From My Heart,” “You Don’t Know Me,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You”), inspired by the way a cross-over champ, Ray Charles, recorded them. And some of these numbers are, uncharacteristically for Peyroux, backed by strings.
Even the best singers don’t have an infinite capacity for versatility. And fans who fell for them singing in one style can feel put off, even betrayed, when they stray too far from the familiar.
But I wouldn’t be surprised if Monheit’s sets at Jazz Alley don’t stint on the kind of lush treatments of Great American Songbook ballads she’s best known for — like Hoagy Carmichael’s “I Get Along Without You Very Well,” which on “The Heart of the Matter” is tucked between Monheit’s self-penned lullaby “Night Night Stars” and that Carpenters pop hit and “Sesame Street” standby, “Sing.”
Monheit performs at Jazz Alley through Sunday. (206-441-9729 or www.jazzalley.com)