Meant to Be
Mamma Grace Records
Imagine the vibratoless, fragile vocals of Joni Mitchell tinged with a jazzy sass and you might envision something like the slyly original style of Jenna Mammina. On Meant to Be (Mamma Grace), Mammina gives character-filled reads to what is primarily an eclectic collection of well-arranged covers. Her lilting soprano cuts to the heart of a surprising, skeletal arrangement of U2's "Running to Stand Still," and coy, note-sliding phrasing adds waifish wit to "Lotus Blossom" and "Honeysuckle Rose." Though she gives a whispered read to a slowed, firelight arrangement of James Taylor's "You Can Close Your Eyes," and a warm, Mitchell-like genteel feel on the poignant original "The Same Things," Mammina can also open up to Phoebe Snow/Toni Childs territory in bluesier moments. Bandleader-guitarist Andre Bush, along with an excellent cast of musicians that includes the wonderful violinist Darol Anger, crafts sweetly understated settings to showcase this chanteuse-from sprightly bass and piano to match frisky staccato phrasings on Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone" to delicate piano surrounding fragile vocals on Tom Waits' "Hope That I Don't Fall in Love With You." At center stage, Mammina's vocals bring humor, heart and a brand of cool unique to one who can cover Billy Strayhorn and Tom Waits in the same set without missing a beat.