Jennifer McMahon is happy to bring her vocals, keyboard and guitar to the multicultural event at The Cobblestone this Friday the 29th. She will be performing new and old original compositions that have been shaped by her education and experience with jazz, as well as the occasional cover. While she occasionally plays in groups, for this event she will perform as a solo act.
Jennifer McMahon would not describe herself purely as a jazz artist, preferring the title singer-songwriter over jazz musician. But jazz has a strong influence on her music and has contributed to how she composes the elements she uses in her songs. Her first album was “heavily jazz informed,” she said, which makes sense considering that she recorded it while she was getting her masters degree at the Berklee School of Music. Her new EP is much more of an expression of where she is currently as an artist, which for the moment is a jazz-influenced singer-songwriter.
Jennifer grew up in a highly creatively inclined household. “Mum is quite creative,” she said, “I might have picked something up from her.” (Jennifer designs clothing and jewelry in addition to playing music.) She credits her older brother for sparking her interest in playing the guitar, saying she “hounded [him] for classes.” Her little brother works with steel as an artistic medium, and her father always had a good eye for art, even though he was never an artist himself.
Her journey with music began with listening to the great singer-songwriters: from Bob Dylan, to Leonard Cohen, to Jeff Buckley; from Norah Jones to Katie Melua, her inspiration comes from artists who are known for lyricism and simple but sophisticated melodies. She remembers not really listening to jazz until she started studying music, but now lists artists like Ella Fitzgerald as one of her influences.
Jennifer doesn’t pigeonhole herself as one type of artist, however. She began making clothes while she was at university (DCU), and lately has been absorbed by making jewelry. She has a small studio where she keeps her beads, tools, and other jewelry paraphernalia; she describes the work as a sort of escape from being locked into one type of artistic expression, calling it her “space to play.”
She wants to eventually bring other types of media into her performances, perhaps bringing painters or dancers up on stage while she plays. She also created an event for female artists on International Women’s Day, which brought together women from all artistic mediums. For Jennifer, it seems that music is simply a starting point for larger multimedia projects and collaborations between all types of artists, a goal that is, in a sense, very true to the idea of jazz itself.
For now though, music is very much THE thing – everything else is, for the moment, important but peripheral. “Music is the thing that ignited my curiosity and creative experience,” she said, “I don’t see music never not being part of the picture.” Whether in collaboration with other musicians or on her own, it’s the thing she will always come back to…it’s home.
This event is hosted by Babylon Radio and features Luisa Annibali’s Band, Rufina Trishina’s Trio, and Jennifer McMahon. Tickets for the event can be purchased at EventBrite.com; curtains go up at 8 p.m.