One of Jodi Stevens' press releases described her first jazz album, Girl Talk, as "Ann-Margret crashing a Blue Note session," and there's a grain of truth in that. Although the East Coast singer/actress can handle jazz, she isn't a hardcore jazz singer in the way that Kitty Margolis, Judi Silvano, Karrin Allyson, Carla White, and Judy Niemack are hardcore jazz singers -- when Stevens sings jazz, she is mindful of cabaret, Broadway, and pre-rock traditional pop. Stevens swings, but not in an abstract, cerebral, hell-bent-for-bop fashion; she doesn't come across as the sort of vocalist who can't wait to scat-sing her way through Charlie Parker's "Ornithology" and the Thelonious Monk songbook. Stevens' jazz singing is mindful of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Julie London, but she is obviously well aware of Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Tin Pan Alley, Broadway musicals, and the abovementioned Ann-Margret. And in fact, Stevens' theatrical leanings stem from the fact that much of her creative background has been in the theater; she had a long resumé as an on-stage actress before she actually recorded any jazz albums.
Born in New Jersey, Stevens spent many of her pre-adult years in nearby Pennsylvania and went to high school in Bryn Mawr, PA (a suburb on Philadelphia's upscale Main Line). At 17, she was a runner-up in the Miss Philadelphia Pageant. She went on to attend Penn State University, where she majored in theater -- and by the time she graduated, Stevens had auditioned for an off-Broadway production in New York called My Name Is Pablo Picasso. Stevens got the part, and she went on to appear in other off-Broadway productions before making her Broadway debut in the play Jekyll & Hyde. Stevens portrayed the famous German singer/actress Marlene Dietrich in a production of pop singer Barry Manilow's Harmony, and she played the lead role of Pam in a production of Urban Cowboy (which started out as an off-Broadway production in 2002 before making its way to Broadway the following year). In addition to appearing in some films (including Abel Ferrara's The Funeral and the thriller Decadent), Stevens has had roles in various television programs, including Sex and the City, Central Park West (which gave her a recurring role), Law and Order, Tribeca, and ABC-TV's long-running daytime soap opera All My Children. In 2002, Stevens signed with the New York-based Sons of Sound label and recorded her first jazz-oriented album, Girl Talk.