Bio - Jenifer French
Jenifer was raised in a music-loving family. She and her sisters played the piano, guitar, sax, and flute; her mother played the clarinet; and her father played - a lot of Jazz records in the house! Jenifer feels very fortunate to have been exposed to and raised on great music from such an early age - from the Big Band sounds of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman to the crooning vocals of Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee to the fabulous Broadway musical scores of The Music Man and Hello Dolly - it's these great recordings that laid the foundation for her ear for great music, composers, and most importantly her extensive repertoire of jazz and blues music.
Since 1999, Jenifer has been gigging on the local Chicago Jazz circuit, as well as appearing in New York, LA, and London. In 2000, she made her first recording of Jazz standards with the Jo Ann Daugherty Trio. That same year, she also made her New York debut at Don't Tell Mama's, performing a variety of Jazz standards by Gershwin, Porter, and Mercer. In 2001, Jenifer and Jazz vocalist Jordan von Haslow returned to Don't Tell Mama's to perform an eclectic duets show called "Bosom Buddies" which was filled with duets from the great American Musical Theatre songbook.
In July 2001, she had the pleasure to meet and perform with the following Jazz Masters at the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Workshop: pianist Phil DeGreg, bassist John Goldsby, and saxophonist Paul DeMarinis. That same year Jenifer became a band leader and formed her own jazz combo (vocals, piano, bass, guitar and drums), Jenifer French & the Jazz Daddies, with Mike Frisch on piano, Mark Kluemper on drums, Adam Haus on guitar, and Matt Fisher on bass.
In 2002, Jenifer created and debuted a new cabaret show called "Outrageous Broads: The Lives and Music of Marlene Dietrich, Ethel Merman, and Beatrice Lillie" - with Musical Director Dan Stetzel and Director Daryl Nitz - and performed it in Chicago's premiere cabaret room, Davenport's Piano Bar & Cabaret.
On May 26, 2002, Jenifer debuted a brand new show she wrote called "Fever! The Peggy Lee Tribute Show" to mark the birthday of jazz legend Peggy Lee and to honor her memory. The show featured Mike Frisch on piano, Adam Haus on guitar, Mike Marotta on drums, John Alderson on horns, and Ed Sullivan on bass. She also made her second recording of jazz standards inspired by and in homage to Peggy Lee Entitled "Things Are Swingin'," Jenifer recorded a set of 12 swinging tunes accompanied by Bradley Williams on piano, Rich Faludi on sax, Dan DeLorenzo on bass, and Michael Schick on drums.
In August of 2004, Jenifer went to London and performed some Sinatra tunes with the Jazzwise Student Big Band Orchestra at the Parkshot Centre's Queen Charlotte Hall in Richmond, England.
After a haitus to start a family, with occasional singing engagements, Jenifer returned full force to the stage in 2014 after spending nearly a year in lovingly creating a tribute show to a couple composers she has long admired, the Sherman Brothers of the Walt Disney Studios. Entitled "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!" it's a show that debuted at Davenport's and highlights some of the best songs from the Sherman Brothers' 1,000+ song repertoire featuring a swingin' jazz band composed of George Howe on piano, Jim Cox on bass, Adam Haus on guitar & ukulele, and Phil Gratteau on drums. (Musical Direction by George Howe and Direction by Daryl Nitz.) The show was a sold-out success in Sept 2014 as well as sold-out for Encore performances in June 2015 and Oct 2015. In April 2016, Jenifer revamped her "Fever! The Peggy Lee Tribute Show" and debuted "The Peggy Lee Legacy" to focus on the songs that Peggy Lee wrote or co-wrote with many illustrious composers. The show features Johnny Rodgers on piano, Joe Policastro on bass, and Phil Gratteau on drums. Jenifer has performed this crowd pleasing, successful show many times and will perform it again with Jeremy Kahn at the keys on Sat Oct 5, 2019 at Davenport's Piano Bar. In December 2018, Jenifer and jazz vocalist Jordan von Haslow starred in "Rhapsody in George," a 120th birthday anniversary tribute to the music of composer George Gershwin.
In addition to her own Jazz combo, Jenifer has had the pleasure of working with many wonderful and talented Jazz musicians, including the Steve Million Trio, the Ryan Cohan Trio, the Jo Ann Daugherty Trio, pianist Mike Frisch, bassist Matt Fisher, drummer Mike Marotta, New York-based pianist Joe Cross, pianist Phil DeGreg, bassist John Goldsby, drummer Steve Barnes, saxophonist Paul DeMarinis, saxophonist Eric Schneider, trumpeter Bobby Lewis, pianist Tom Hope, pianist Tommy Muellner, pianist Johnny Rodgers, bassist Jim Cox, bassist Joe Policastro, drummer Phil Gratteau, guitarist Adam Haus, The Sound and the Fury Swing Band, the OTS Electric Blues Band, saxophonist Rich Faludi, bassist Mike Maretia, and pianist Dan Merrigan.
Some of the other venues Jenifer French has performed at include: Andy's Jazz Club, Buddy Guy's Legends, Rosa's Lounge, Lush Life, Rumors Jazz, Bluepoint Oyster Bar, House of Blues (in Chicago), the Pump Room (of the Ambassador East Hotel), Gentry's, Palettes, Don't Tell Mama, Davenport's Piano Bar, Skokie Theatre, Via Vecchia Winery, Pheasant Run Resort, and the Chicago Folks and Roots Festival.
Jenifer's previous cabaret shows include:
***"Outrageous Broads: The Lives & Music of Marlene Dietrich, Ethel Merman, and Beatrice Lillie" - starring Jenifer French (Musical Director Dan Stetzel; Director Daryl Nitz) - Davenport's Piano Bar & Cabaret (Chicago)
***"Bosom Buddies, The Duets Show" co-starring Jenifer French and Jordan Von Haslow (Musical Director Joe Cross; Director Denise Maynard) - Don't Tell Mama (NYC)
***"Fever! The Peggy Lee Tribute Show" starring Jenifer French and the Jazz Daddies (Mike Frisch - piano; Adam Haus - guitar; Ed Sullivan - bass; John Alderson - sax; and Mike Marotta - drums) - Rumor's Jazz (Chicago)
***"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!" - a loving tribute to The Sherman Brothers starring Jenifer French & Friends (Jim Cox - bass; Phil Gratteau- drums; Adam Haus - guitar/ukulele; George Howe - vocals/piano/Musical Director; and Daryl Nitz - vocals/Director) - Davenport's Piano Bar & Cabaret (Chicago)
***"The Peggy Lee Legacy" tribute show starring Jenifer French with Joe Policastro - bass; Phil Gratteau- drums; Ann McGregor - vocals; Johnny Rodgers - vocals/piano/Musical Director; and Daryl Nitz - vocals/Director) - Davenport's Piano Bar & Cabaret (Chicago)
***"Rhapsody in George" a 120th birthday tribute to composer George Gershwin starring Jenifer French & Jordan von Haslow, featuring Beckie Menzie (piano); Jim Cox (bass) and Phil Gratteau (drums.)