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Members includes Renee Neufville (born in Jamaica, grew up in Brooklyn, New York), vocals; Jean Norris (born in Rhode Island), vocals, piano, synthesized bass. Addresses: Record company--Motown Records, 5750 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028. Website--www.motown.com, www.allmusic.com, http://musiccentral.msn.com.

The singing, songwriting, and piano-playing duo of Jean Norris and Renee Neufville have proven they are not just another one-hit wonder. The pair who make up Zhane, pronounced Jah-Nay--"Jah" for the beginning of Jean and "Nay" for the end of Renee--released their second album, 1997's Saturday Night, to generally positive reviews, following their platinum-selling debut album of 1994, Zhane: Pronounced Jah-Nay. Their it from that album, "Hey Mr. DJ," became a hip-hop anthem but pigeonholed them in the dance/disco genre. Their second release finds Zhane trying to break out of that niche. "Saturday Night reflects many different styles," Norris explained in their record company bio. "We've got some jazz. We've got dance tracks, R&B, and a little pop." Neufville added, "{The album} demonstrates a lot of growth for us. It is a definite testament of where we are spiritually and musically, and where we are trying to go."

Neufville, born in Jamaica and raised in Brooklyn, New York, began playing piano as a five year old and began singing in high school. Meanwhile, Norris, who grew up in Moorestown, New Jersey also played piano at a young age, ultimately studying music at Temple University in Philadelphia. It was at Temple where Neufville and Norris initially began to sing together. To ease their individual heartaches when both ended relationships with boyfriends in the span of several days, the two put their emotions into their songs and their singing and soon felt they were good enough to begin performing in front of an audience.

Their first professional venture was singing background vocals for Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince on the single, "Ring My Bell," in 1992. The pair decided to strike out on their own when they were excluded from the video of "Ring My Bell." They started calling record labels and management companies and fell upon Queen Latifah's Flavor Unit Management where rap producer Kay Gee, of Naughty by Nature, had been searching for a female group to produce. As Norris recalled in their record company bio, "Kay Gee gave us our start. He brought this real hip-hop edge to us and we weren't sure what to expect because we were doing ballads. But the collaboration came together and worked!"

Zhane was showcased on the 1993 all-star compilation album, Roll Wit Tha Flava, with the song, "Hey Mr. DJ," the result of their collaboration with Kay Gee. The only R&B track on Flava, the song went to the top of the dance charts and won the attention of Motown Records, who signed the duo in 1994. Their debut album, Zhane: Pronounced Jah- Nay, was released by Motown in February of 1994 and went gold by year's end. The album would eventually obtain platinum status. Along with the hit "Hey Mr. DJ," the album included two Top 40 hits, "Sending My Love," and "Groove Thang." From 1994 -6 Zhane performed with others on a number of recordings including NBA At 50: A Musical Celebration, Hey Mr. DJ.: The 4th Compilation, as well as on the soundtracks of Higher Learning and A Low Down Dirty Shame.

In 1997, Zhane released their second album, appropriately titled, Saturday Night since the topics and styles they present so often suggest a time and place of partying, relaxing, and dancing. In addition to writing all of the lyrics, and composingsome of the sultry, satiny-smooth music, the pair became more involved in the production of their second album. "When you want your music to sound a certain way, you have to be involved in the production," Norris explained to Yvette Russell of Essence.

Not wanting to be confined or defined as a group that produces just party music or disco, the second release has a similar flavor to the debut, but adds a little more spice in stylistic expression. With Saturday Night, the duo illustrated their talents in creating soulful R&B with a rock and roll edge, touches of hip-hop, as well as traces of gospel, reggae, and jazz. In reviewing Saturday Night for USA Today, Nekesa Mumbi Moody declared that the duo, "actually grows artistically with thought-provoking lyrics and beautiful melodies, which match wonderfully with their powerful voices," adding, "Zhane has definitely broken the sophomore jinx." And while Laura Jamison of Rolling Stone, didn't share Moody's enthusiasm for the album's lyrics and vocals she said, "the duo's sexy, smooth sound will--at the very least--make you move."

With their second album, Neufville and Norris decided to use a host of musicians to give the record a more live and spontaneous feel. To elicit the desired results from performers, the duo communicated their interpretations of the music to the musicians who through their individual instruments convey the expression of the songs. The cut "So Badd," features jazz guitarist, Norman Brown, while on "Piece It Together," Najee is featured on the flute and R&B singer Will Downing performs his smooth vocal magic.

The album also features distinctive cover versions of Billy Joel's "The Longest Time," and Chic's "Good Times." The third single on the album, "Crush," formally presented the duo's jazz stylings. Norris explained to Billboard's Shawnee Smith, the decisions that went into choosing the songs included in the release. "We did the ballads and the jazz-influenced songs because {those} are the songs that mean so much to us.... They show that we're not just a one-dimensional group."

by Debra Reilly

Zhane's Career

Sang background vocals on "Ring My Bell," for Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff; recorded "Hey, Mr. DJ," for the various artist compilation Roll Wit Tha Flava, 1993; signed with Motown Records, 1994; released debut album, Pronounced Jah-Nay, 1994; Saturday Night, 1997' contributed to soundtrack Higher Learning, 1995, and the compilation NBA At 50: A Musical Celebration, 1996.

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