A picture may paint a thousand words, but a word can tell the whole story. “Exquisite!” says author/radio host Ben Fong-Torres, former senior editor of Rolling Stone Magazine and perennial king of what’s hot and what’s not. He’s talking about pop/jazz vocalist/songwriter Jenna Mammina and he is not alone. Hailing 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. And the rest is HERstory…
At the tender age of five, Jenna began singing in church and in clubs with her brothers Nino and Mitch and sister Lisa. Visits to her mother’s Native American New Mexico and experiencing the healing power of music planted the seed which would eventually define the power of the gift she now possesses. “I have fallen under Jenna’s spell,” writes Oakland Tribune music critic Jim Herrington. “I hope to never recover from it.”
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 to name a few.
Jenna and Cookie began their recording journey long before Blue Coast Records started. Jenna chose Cookie to record her first album, Under the Influence, at OTR Studios. It became one of the most widely praised debuts in recent memory, earning a four-star review in Japan’s most prestigious jazz magazine, Swing Journal.
The success of the first album led the two women to record Jenna’s second album, Meant to Be, another critically acclaimed album. But what really captured Cookie’s attention was Jenna’s ability to perform live. It didn’t take long before Cookie asked Jenna to be recorded live in the studio for Blue Coast Records. “Jenna brings an intimacy to the music that few artists ever achieve in a lifetime. Whether with a live audience or the musicians in the studio, her effortless improvisation and interpretations of songs is truly amazing,” says Cookie.
The Blue Coast Records journey began with Nashville pianist Matt Rollings, a sought after session player who accompanied Lyle Lovett and Mark Knopfler. Cookie had invited the local audiophile group over to witness Jenna and Matt’s live in the studio recording. You’d never guess there were 25 people 5 feet away from these performers.
Close Your Eye is the first album on Blue Coast Records and is a remix to high resolution audio (HD) of favorite songs from many of the albums Jenna and Cookie worked on together. But it’s not the only album. Jenna may be Blue Coast Records’ most prolific recording artist with several live-in-the-studio albums. Jenna is also the featured singer for Derek Jones’ albums.
“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 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.”