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Divas, divas, divas: Dianne Reeves, Jane Monheit, Nikki Yanofsky perform Friday at Arsht Center

By STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

In the old days, diva meant Judy, Liza or Barbra. Perhaps Cher. Now, it seems every female singer is a diva. And Friday night, Larry Rosen’s Jazz Roots at the Adrienne Arsht Center presents not one but three generations of bonafide divas.

Diva No. 1 Jane Monheit says “in most rooms in New York, people show up and listen.” Not one night a few years ago when she performed at the old Arturo Sandoval Jazz Club in Miami Beach for “a table full of people who wouldn’t shut up.”

“Who knows, they could have been saying to people around them how much they enjoyed the show,” says Monheit, who climbed from the stage in disgust and plopped down with the rude nightclub patrons. “I just sat at the table and sang Over the Rainbow.” That’s a diva.

Monheit, 33, has been singing professionally since she was a teenager in Long Island, about the same age as jazz star Dianne Reeves, Diva No. 2.

Reeves, 54, has been a professional singer since age 16. Her idols included Sarah Vaughan, Betty Carter and Nina Simone. One night, Ella Fitzgerald asked Reeves to go on for her.

Reeves literally, painfully, filled the jazz giant’s shoes. “[Ella wore] turquoise-colored shoes, and I put them on. She had very narrow feet, and I didn’t.” That’s a diva.

Diva No. 3 is teen jazz sensation Nikki Yanofsky, who turned 17 in February.

“The only advice I would give her is to never let anyone push her around,” Monheit says. “Just be true to yourself and not let the negative parts of this business get you down. Remember, it all comes down to music.”

Yanofsky says she’s “been singing since I could talk.”

“I’ve always had huge passion for it and a sense of destiny that I would perform,” says Yanofsky, whose first live performance was singing for 125,000 music fans in her hometown, at the Montreal Jazz Festival opening in 2006.

“I never really get nervous in front of an audience. I get excited. I never just psych myself out or get nauseous.” Now, that’s a diva.

IF YOU GO

Larry Rosen's Jazz Roots presents Three Generations of Divas 8 p.m. Friday at the Adrienne Arsht Center Knight Concert Hall. Available tickets range from $45 to $130. Click here to buy tickets or for more information.

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Jane Monheit is an amazing singer. Reeves, too!

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