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“She was my first hero,” jazz singer Jane Monheit says about Judy Garland. Though born nearly a full decade after Garland’s death in 1969, Monheit grew up on Long Island listening to Garland. She also grew up knowing she’d make music her career.
“I always knew I’d be a jazz singer from the time I was a little tiny kid,” Monheit says. “My whole family, all my teachers at school, everyone has always been behind me. I was very lucky that way.” Monheit has earned two Grammy nominations in the decade since graduating from the Manhattan School of Music and became a major-label jazz artist. Years of performing at jazz clubs and cabaret venues helped give her the idea to pay tribute to Garland. “I thought it would be great to do a show celebrating that side of the way she sang,” she says.
The show, “Hello Bluebird: The Jazz of Judy Garland,” focuses on the lighter, happier, jazzier side of Garland, rather than the more familiar drama and drugs. It’s a celebration of “the immense joy she brought through song, and her innate understanding of jazz.”
Having toured around the country with the show since April, Monheit brings it to Blues Alley this weekend. She’ll perform with her usual three-piece band, which includes her drummer husband, Rick Montalbano. And if you miss it, you might never get a chance to see or even hear it again: Monheit doesn’t expect to record the show. She also doesn’t expect to tack on any of her own standards — not even any from last year’s diverse covers set, The Heart of the Matter. “I’m not doing any of my hits or anything like that, I’m just doing the Garland repertoire.”
There is, however, at least one song that overlaps between the two artists’ repertoires. After all, Monheit first gained wider notice a decade ago, when she appeared on the soundtrack to the science fiction blockbuster Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Naturally, she sings “Over The Rainbow.” — Doug Rule
Jane Monheit performs Thursday, Sept. 18, through Sunday, Sept. 21, at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Tickets are $40, plus $10 minimum purchase. Call 202-337-4141 or visit bluesalley.com.
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