Pop/jazz vocalist/songwriter Jenna Mammina hails from Michigan, home to luminary vocal legends like Aretha Franklin, Betty Carter, and her mentor, Abbey Lincoln. Jenna’s mixed heritage household and neighborhood surrounded her with a vast array of diverse culture and music. Her parents, Ben and Grace, both accomplished musicians in their own right, nurtured all four siblings to cultivate their own breed of musical talent, culminating in the creation of their own independent record label Mamma Grace Records. And the rest is HERstory…
Recognized as one of the leading women of jazz/pop crossover for three years in a row by Jazziz Magazine, she recently shared the honor of both the cover and an original song “A Love that Lasts”, included alongside Diana Krall and Norah Jones. Her song “Contradictions” was included on the 2004 KKSF Aids Relief Sampler CD, featuring Joe Jackson and Brenda Russell. Other accolades bestowed upon Ms. Mammina include Jazz Performer of the Year for the SF Weekly, a nomination for Best Jazz Album for her sophomore CD, Meant to Be, by the California Music Awards, and the Goldy Award for her tireless work with children through her nationally acclaimed program Scat for Cats. Jenna’s first album, Under the Influence, was one of the most widely praised debuts in recent memory, earning a four-star review in Japan’s most prestigious jazz magazine, Swing Journal.
With thousands of miles and performances under her tri-coastal musical gypsy skirt, Jenna has claimed the San Francisco Bay Area as her home and sanctuary. She has performed with a vast array of legendary talent, such as Bobby McFerrin, June Millington, Rickie Lee Jones, Al Jarreau, Phish, David Sanborn, Ray Obiedo, Will Ackerman, Liz Story, Tuck Andress, and Rosemary Clooney. Jenna has graced the stages of esteemed venues like Yoshi’s in Oakland, California, Town Hall in New York, The Green Mill in Chicago, and in festivals such as Jazz Aspen, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage, Monterey San Francisco, Big Sur and Mount Hood, continuing to delight sold-out crowds throughout the United States and touring over 250 dates a year.
On each of her five self produced CDs Under the Influence 1999, Just a Little Bit 2000, Meant to Be 2002, Art of the Duo 2003 and Jenna’s 2005 release Inner Smile along with songwriting partner Jonathan Bendich, it is Jenna’s uncanny ability to wrap herself around a melody, drawing the listener in so closely he can hear his own heartbeat while trying to catch his breath.
With a recent release, Jenna paid tribute to one of her prime mentors, the late great jazz singer and songwriter Abbey Lincoln. Jenna lived and studied with Abbey Lincoln over the course of 15 years. Jenna refers to Ms. Lincoln as her “second mamma”, and speaks fondly of the inspirations she gained from the great singer. Ms. Lincoln once told Jenna, “Jenna, we have the best job in the world. We are singers. We stand on a stage in front of people and sing songs that change lives.” Ms. Lincoln certainly did change Jenna’s life, and after her passing in 2010, Jenna refocused her energies into producing her 8th recording as a tribute to Ms. Lincoln: The Music and the Magic of Ms. Abbey Lincoln.
“She doesn’t just cover Warren Zevon, Elvis Costello and James Taylor, she reupholsters them,” says Hew Hallock. “She unwinds a song as if each word dangled from a string of twinkling charms and delicately snaps consonants like wishbones.”
Ben Fong-Torres, former senior editor of Rolling Stone Magazine, couldn’t agree more. “She teases it, toys with it, laughs with it, vocally dances with it, and, ultimately, the singer, and the song embrace one another, to the pleasure of the audience,” he says. “If these disks inspire you to seek out one of her club or concert engagements, be forewarned: You’ll have fun.”
Yes, you will… if you don’t miss her! The Festival welcomed Jenna to our stage for the first time in 2014, and she returns this year to once again delight and enlighten our audience.