Jazz festival favorite returns to Portland

Jenna Mammina
Thurs. April 19
Lincoln Hall 75
12 p.m.

Reverb Records3623 SE Hawthorne
8 p.m.

Fri. April 20
400 SW Broadway
7 p.m.
21 and over

Sunday April 22
Briarwood Inn
2752 NE Hogan
2 p.m.

Not even a year ago, Jenna Mammina wowed the crowd at the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival with her unique contemporary vocal style. The Oregonian called Mammina’s performance “the festival surprise hit.”

Now Mammina is back in town for a four-performance blitz around the Portland area. Her return to Portland begins right here at Portland State tomorrow at noon. The PSU Music Department’s Noon Concert Series is hosting Mammina for an hour-long performance in Lincoln Recital Hall, LH 75.

What can one expect at a Jenna Mammina performance? Critics in San Francisco say that Mammina “dissolves the line between jazz and pop,” creating a truly unique performance experience.

“I’ve always been surrounded by music, art, and people from all kinds of backgrounds,” Mammina said in her official bio. Mammina’s family is ethnically diverse; her father is Sicilian, and her mother is Spanish and Native American. She grew up listening to big band music on the radio and her father was friends with jazz piano great Gene Harris. Growing up exposed Mammina to rock ‘n’ roll, and ultimately she “graduated” to jazz.

Although jazz performance took Mammina around San Francisco and the country, she never forgot those bands in other genres that affected her.

Today, Mammina’s concerts include tributes to the many musicians that have impacted her. She typically includes songs by James Taylor, Elvis Costello, Led Zeppelin, Dr. John, Nat King Cole, and others, with a smattering of Mammina’s own original work.

Tomorrow’s concert will feature some (if not all) songs from Mammina’s debut album, Under the Influence. This album features songs by, and inspired by Mammina’s musical mentors and heroes. It’s an unconventional journey through all moods and forms of music. From Broadway showtunes to Led Zeppelin remakes, there’s probably a mood and a style for everyone in the Under the Influence lineup.

From the samplings of Mammina’s work on her website (www.jennamammina.com), she sounds like a cross between Erykah Badu and Dido, with a small sprinkling of the lead singer from Sixpence None the Richer. Mammina is full of “Baduisms,” with her smooth vocals over very relaxed beats. Other times it’s more emotional, like Dido. Every song is different from the last.

A particularly striking song is “Watching the Detectives.” This song combines eerily familiar vocals with music that makes you imagine yourself in an alley in New York City. As Wayne Saroyan of the Oakland Tribune emoted, “she takes the lyric of each tune and wraps them around herself like a warm comfortable cloak.” This is definitely the feel of “Watching the Detectives.”

Be sure to catch Jenna Mammina singing this great song and more at her free performance in Lincoln 75. If you don’t, there are still three more chances to see her in town.

As mentioned earlier, Mammina is on a 4-concert blitz through the Portland area. After her performance at PSU, she will be performing at Reverb Records (3623 SE Hawthorne) at 8 p.m. Unlike the PSU concert, this one’s going to cost you, $5 to be exact.

Friday, she will be on Broadway (I400 SW Broadway, that is) singing at Typhoon at 7 p.m. There is no cover charge, but there is a drink limit, as this is a show for those 21 and over.

Sunday, she will perform in Gresham, not too far from the home of the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival, singing at Briarwood Inn (2752 NE Hogan). For more information call (503) 907-1777.

The PSU Music Department offers a noon concert every Tuesday and Thursday, which are free. For more information about these shows call (503) 725-3011.