Now working out of California, but originally from Michigan Jenna Mammina's heroes were the musicians who came from that state, all the Motown artists and Aretha Franklin, Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln. During her teens she was influenced by Carole King, Jim Croce, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. Later on she was turned on by artists running the gamut from adventurous rock bands like Yes, Genesis, and especially the Grateful Dead. Eventually, as she matured, she graduated to jazz via John Coltrane, Miles Davis. Yet one hears flickers of those early rock influences in the songs she has selected for this her maiden album. Her program includes pieces by Elvis Costello, Abbey Lincoln, Leonard Bernstein, Sammy Cahn as well as two her own songs.
With its slight nasal quality Mammina's voice is vaguely reminiscent of another outstanding contemporary jazz singer, Stacey Kent. There's also a lightness and delicacy about it that reminds one of Blossom Dearie, less the breathy whispering. Her girl next door results in a style and delivery which can be described as a constant state of wonderment with the feelings she is passing on through the lyrics. In the minds eye, one sees an innocent young lady singing about emotions she is just now becoming aware of. Nowhere is this state more clearly expressed than in the album's coda "The Second Star to the Right" accompanied by Matt Rollings on piano along with violin. The neglected gem, "My One and Only Love", creates the vision of a first experience with something called love, not sure what it means, but intuitively knowing that it is a nice situation to be in which she wants to share with her "one and only love". This version recalls Tommy Flanagan's brittle 1947 recording of this lovely tune. "When I Take My Sugar to Tea" breaks the mold of serious stuff with an up tempo rendering of this musical tea party. Notice how Mammina ends the tune by going up the scale, rather than down. Occasionally Mammina overdoes "cute" to the point where it slips into becoming an affectation, as on her own "Take Back the Night". But this is countered by a shrug of the shoulders rendering of "Some Other Time".
Keeping with the theme of the album, Mammina is joined by an eclectic gathering of musicians who play a variety of acoustic and electrically enhanced instruments, mostly with good effect. Like many of her contemporaries, Mammina favors using different performers throughout the session. I'm never what the point is of this. But it seems to be a common practice these days. There's the usual background vocals and some Mammina over dubbing. It gets a bit murky sometimes as on "Contradictions".
This album will appeal to those who prefer their musical cocktails mixed with a wide variety of ingredients, jazz, pop, rock and adult contemporary. Visit Jenna's Internet site at www.jennamammina.com.