One of the tracks on Jane Monheit’s new album is a cover of "Blame It On My Youth"; I’m inclined to do so. After all, she is only 24. There aren’t that many people, let alone musicians, who have their act together at such a tender age.
As satisfying as hearing Jane Monheit’s voice can be to the vocal enthusiast, a listener could come away from the album feeling like his ears have been teased for an hour. "Come Dream With Me" continues a trend for Monheit to steer towards torch, slow tempo ballads, and Jobim covers. Only "I’m Through With Love" with its smooth blues groove, the flippant wordplay of "Waters of March", and an inspired choice of the soft-rock standard "If" manage to bring a sense of urgency to the album. Ballads are what she feels comfortable with, but it seems like nothing more than a warm-up for Monheit. The musicians are closer in age to Monheit this time around, but still hired guns (Kenny Barron on piano, Christian McBride on bass, Gregory Hutchinson on drums, and Tom Harrell on trumpet form the core band, with guest appearances by Michael Brecker and Richard Bona). There’s nothing on this album that compares to the inspired covers of Annie Ross’ "Twisted" or "Save Your Love For! Me" from last year’s "Never Never
But, boy, does Ms. Monheit have one heck of a future in store. Of the growing pool of young jazz vocalists, she has the best set of chops: a quivering vibrato she doesn’t overuse, excellent phrasing, outstanding breath control, and a keen sense of dynamics. She’s also the darling of critics nationwide right now. Much ado was made of her use of a sharp eleventh to close out "Detour Ahead" on "Never Never Land". She’s more impressive this time around, moaning low at the end of "Spring Can Really Hurt You The Most" when other vocalists would not have resisted the urge to raise the note to C-sharp, glass cracking range.
"Come Dream With Me" isn’t the best vocal album I’ve heard this year (that would be Carla Cook’s "Dem Bones", which has grown on me since my initial review). Hopefully, it’ll be the blueprint for Monheit to branch out and actually challenge herself and listeners.
After all, she’s only 24.