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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Jenna McSwain

Enjoy Your Space

Review by Gary Hill

This is such a great EP. I had no idea what to expect going in, and I was completely blown away. I think that this will probably make my "best of 2022" list. The jazz-styled music here is so strong, and Jenna McSwain's vocals are always right on the money. She can convey emotion. She can lay it down soulful, but also rock out. If this were a little more experimental or artsy, I probably would have landed it in the progressive rock area, as a fusion meets art music thing, but however you categorize this, it's so strong.

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Track by Track Review
Spin (Circles)
I really love the pretty, jazzy piano that starts the album. The vocals come over in a high-pitched, jazz-like approach. After a time, other instruments are added to the mix. Eventually other instruments join to fill out the arrangement into a full jazz treatment and the piano is largely gone. After that part works through, the piano takes over again. When it gets back into the full band arrangement again, this gets a serious infusion of energy and cool. This powerhouse is such a potent song and a great way to start the release.
Enjoy Your Space
The title track takes the second position on this EP. Piano again starts it in more of a bouncy way. As the vocals join, other instruments are added to the mix. This has some jazz still built into it, but it's more of a bouncy sort of pop tune in a lot of ways. It's also so strong. It does turn jazzier later and gets into some seriously sublime zones. The vocal arrangement is magic, but the whole tune just works so well. Some of the jazz exploration on the instrumental break purely reaches in and grabs hold of my heart to massage it in a loving way.
The Spark
Now, this cut takes it from pure jazz into art music zones, while still showcasing those jazz elements. The piano brings it in with a swirling magic. The tune grows as a swaying, mellower, slower arrangement. It gradually gets more energetic as it continues. The piece just keeps evolving as it works forward.
The Love Ballad
We get a jazz ballad here, but you probably figured that out from the title of the song. This works out into some seriously soaring territory as it makes its way forward. Symphonic strings are a great addition to the arrangement, and the whole song just works so well, upholding the quality we've heard so far. It gets pretty rocking before it's over.
Piano is the first instrument on the scene here, It remains the only instrument as the vocals paint magical pictures over the top in a beautiful tapestry of sound. At less than two-minutes of music, this is the shortest song here. I wish it were longer, but then again, it's always a good idea to leave them wanting more.
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