Jazz vocalist Jenna McLean has a lot to celebrate. She’s been studying for a Doctor of Arts degree at the University of Northern Colorado, and after receiving a grant and releasing her debut jazz album, “Brighter Day,” in February, she has been busy planning her first tour—with a stop in Sun Valley.
The Colorado-based Jenna McLean Quintet will perform at the Argyros Performing Arts Center on Monday, Aug. 12, at 7 p.m. McLean and her band kicked off a West Coast tour in California a week ago and have been making their way north through California and Oregon ever since.
“I’ve never had a gig in Idaho,” McLean said, “but my grandparents lived in Sun Valley for years and I visited them. I have some great memories there. My grandparents are so excited I’m performing in Sun Valley.”
McLean comes from strong musical roots but has only been formally studying jazz for 10 years.
“Growing up, music was always a part of my family. I just had a musical family in general,” she said. “I was influenced musically by my cousins and I just kind of listened to the stuff my parents did. I listened to a lot of Nat King Cole records growing up and more big names—Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and the like.
“I participated in choir and band, played flute growing up. I got into musical theater and dance in school. All of these experiences together [prompted] me to study music in college.”
McLean studied classical voice as an undergraduate at the University of Wyoming and decided after graduating that jazz was “more what felt like me.”
“I felt more at home, so I decided to pursue a master’s in jazz and jazz voice,” she said.
She hasn’t looked back.
McLean and her band have been thinking of their tour as a “paid vacation,” which makes sense considering that her band is made up of her good friends: Steve Kovalcheck on guitar, Tom Amend on piano, Seth Lewis on bass and Ryan Leppich on drums.
“It’s my first time planning a formal tour like this,” McLean said. “I booked and planned it myself … and I’m excited to do it.”
Over the course of their tour, the Jenna McLean Quintet will play a variety of venues, from purely jazz venues with a dedicated listening room, to jazz clubs with a bar and a restaurant. McLean said they look forward to playing at the Argyros and that while in Sun Valley, she will “definitely be playing stuff from the record—most, if not all of the songs.”
“We’re just super excited to come back to what is a very nostalgic place for me and being able to share our music in Sun Valley,” she said.