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With roots in vocal jazz and classical piano, Portland, Oregon-based songwriter and vocalist, Marti Mendenhall has a unique style that captures the nuances of jazz. Her performances bring audiences singing along, tapping their feet and smiling ear to ear. Combining the soul of Ella Fitzgerald and spontaneity of Charlie Parker, Mendenhall’s distinctive flair transforms jazz standards into fresh material.
With a degree in the Music and the Arts, her strongest influences come from Jamie Cullum, Karrin Allyson and whatever is playing on the radio. Mendenhall’s original compositions bloom from an inner source that even she doesn’t fully fathom, “When I open the door, tunes, melodies and lyrics just come out of nowhere. It’s exhilarating and overwhelming at the same time.” Her heartfelt passion for the Jazz idiom is evident in smooth arrangements, remarkable lyrics and sky-high scat solos that resonate with the true energy of the music.
Mendenhall has been a featured artist for Portland Center for Performing Arts, a benefit concert that gave birth to her debut CD: "An Evening of Live Jazz", presented her Master Class and Vocal Improvisation workshop at National and Pacific Northwest venues, and is a regular soloist for the renowned Oregon Repertory Singers. Mike Horsfall says, “Marti is a musician par excellence, with a superbly trained voice that can do almost anything she asks of it.”
Mendenhall's debut album, "An Evening of Live Jazz", features George Mitchell on keys (Diana Ross), Todd Strait on percussion (Diana Krall) and Scott Steed on bass (Karrin Allyson). The CD features four original compositions and eight jazz standards marked with Mendenhall’s own arrangements. Audio engineer, Steve Branson (Chick Corea, Robert Cray), artfully captured the live feeling of the concert to the CD with no over-dubs or re-mixing in the studio.
One original arrangement of Mendenhall’s combines two spooky tunes “Sarah's Theme - Come Little Children” and “Hushabye Mountain” into a hauntingly performed song titled "Sarah's Hushabye". In this ethereal song, Mendenhall's vocals soar to high C's and Steed's deep strings, simultaneously weaving soothe and charm in perfect harmony with the theme of the concert. Two of Mendenhall's original compositions, “Believe” and “Book of Love” resonate with heartfelt passion, with melodies that have a wide-appeal and a crossover style. While her original tune Brasilia, (co-written with Joey Herbert, UNC Jazz Press) reminds us that the core of this singer is made of pure jazz and explains why jazz choirs choose the song for competitions and performances to this day.
Like her music, Mendenhall keeps boppin’ into new projects, building a rhythm and finding the beat to keep her music fresh and relevant for all listeners to enjoy.