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Jenna McLean to Bring Love of Jazz to Grandparents, Sun Valley
Wednesday, August 7, 2019


Jenna McLean grew up singing Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” and Etta James’ “At Last” at nearly every family reunion.

Her grandparents—Lanny and Anne McLean--were always supportive.

They attended her CD release show in February in Denver. And now they will have the opportunity to see her perform professionally in their Sun Valley community when McLean and her band perform Aug. 12 at the Argyros Performing Arts Center.

“They are true lovers of jazz, whether I’m in the picture or not. And that makes their appreciation for my music even more special,” said McLean.

McLean and her band will perform at 7 p.m. Aug. 12, at the Argyros Performing Arts Center in Ketchum. Tickets are $15, available at

The performance will feature cabaret table seating in the intimate setting of the Bailey Studio. McLean will be joined by her band, which features Steve Kovalcheck on guitar, Tom Amend on piano, Seth Lewis on bass and Ryan Leppich on drums.

McLean is a 2018 Downbeat award-winning Jazz vocalist, who has performed alongside Bobby McFerrin and Ben Markley, among others.

She has degrees in classical vocal performance and jazz studies and a love for jazz, funk, soul and classical music.

McLean started out as a dance major at the University of Wyoming before switching to Classical Vocal Performance. Soon, she began incorporating jazz studies, as well, including the history of jazz, improvisation and singing with a jazz ensemble into her curriculum, eventually completing a Master of Music Degree in Jazz Studies.

“For me, classical music is beautiful.  And I have great respect for it. But jazz is more connected to my personality,” she said. “It’s heavily communication based and heavily improvisation based. The improvisation forces you to interact with your fellow musicians as everyone listens, trying to interact just as you would in a conversation.  And that’s appealing to me.

“I also like how you take a piece of music and totally change it and make it your own. You’re making a new arrangement that’s not been done.”

In February McLean released the album “Brighter Day,” which is touted as “a celebration of joy and human resilience amidst a turbulent world.”

The album features an original song in McLean’s “Brighter Day” and a scat solo and fast chord changes in “Long Ago and Far Away.”  It also features her own arrangements of celebrated jazz compositions by such jazz artists as Stan Getz, Carmen McRae and Wayne Shorter. McLean, for instance, wrote lyrics to Shorter’s “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum.”

 “Basically, I just picked songs I really love,” she said.

Critics have praised McLean’s approach. She abandoned the path of a lounge songstress, instead programming her album like a horn player, said one.

The album encompasses everything that a true jazz musician should present, including homages to classic recordings, original compositions and clear precise improvisations, said a reviewer for “Bandwagon.”

When not performing, McLean loves to teach, passing on her love of jazz to others.

“Even though it sometimes feels like work, we’re lucky to be doing our music,” she said. “Not everyone is so fortunate to get to do what they love to do.”


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