Singer Jane Monheit loves good lyrics, and she knows where to look for them.
And, she knows how to sing them, which is more to the point.
The New York-based singer, who recently released her 11th album, performs June 21 at the Burton Cummings Theatre as part of the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival.
Monheit's repertoire includes the American Songbook, of course, but also draws on singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder. Her new disc, The Heart of the Matter, has the Beatles' Golden Slumbers / The Long and Winding Road and Buffy Sainte-Marie's Until It's Time for You to Go.
In preparing the album, "I wasn't thinking about genre," she says. "I picked songs that sounded good. I've done all kinds of stuff. It's always been part of my recording life."
Monheit gets to work with the wonderful arranger and keyboard player Gil Goldstein, and gets to really appreciate it this time. Last time, the singer was pregnant and then a new mother during a project involving arrangements by Goldstein and things were a bit of a blur, she says.
"I knew from then on I wanted to work with him with my own band," she says before her sound check for a recent Chicago performance.
Now, "I can't say enough about how good it is to work with him. He's not just a genius, he's a beautiful guy who makes beautiful music."
For his part, Goldstein returns the compliment in the June issue of Downbeat magazine: "I think she's very present on the record. Every time I hear it, I feel Jane figuring out the song and being in the moment... She brings us along, sets up our expectations, then changes her mind and comes in a little after the beat. That's what makes a good singer and a great artist..."
Monheit's band includes her husband, drummer Rick Montalbano, and an ex officio member, their five-year-old son Jack, who travels with them and all his "uncles" in the band.
"He loves the travel," Monheit says. She and her husband home-school Jack, so it's easier to take him on the road, where he keeps a routine close to his mother's "because sleep is important to a singer for vocal health," she adds.
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Monheit is one of three singers headlining mainstage shows at this year's jazz festival
Bettye LaVette, the blues/soul singer who made her first recording in 1962, is still riding a successful comeback that started with the release of her 2004 disc A Woman Like Me, which won her top blues awards that year.
LaVette, who takes the stage June 19, has performed for 51 years.
The inventive singer, songwriter and pianist Patricia Barber performs June 18, leading a quartet in a show that will include material from her new CD, Smash.
You can read the Free Press profile on Barber online at http://wfp.to/5o5
Jane Monheit performs June 21, 7:30 p.m., at the Burton Cummings Theatre; Bettye LaVette performs June 19, 7:30 p.m, at the Burt; Patricia Barber Quartet performs June 18, 8 p.m., at the West End Cultural Centre.
Other mainstage shows include: Rudresh Mahanthappa's Gamak, June 17, West End Cultural Centre; Preservation Hall Jazz Band, June 20, the Burt; The Roots, June 22, Centennial Concert Hall; Courtney Pine, June 22, WECC; and George Benson, June 23, the Burt.
Tickets for the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival, which runs June 13-23, are available at jazzwinnipeg.com, 204-989-4656 and at the Jazz Winnipeg office (007-100 Arthur St.). Tickets for Burton Cummings Theatre and Centennial Concert Hall shows are also available at Ticketmaster.