Banner photos by Elizabeth Kirian
Press and Praise for Jenna & Rolf
"...dreamy... wrapped in silk... gently yearning... superbly transfigured.” — JazzTimes
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JazzTimes, September 2017
“Established more than two decades ago, the union of vocalist Jenna Mammina and guitarist Rolf Sturm finally bore fruit two years ago with the eclectic, sweetly satisfying Spark. This welcome re-teaming proves equally diverse, mellow and sublime. Sturm, mentored by such jazz masters as Joe Pass, Bill Frisell and Jim Hall but as richly steeped in folk, rock and country, exudes a subtle imagination, an understated authority that is, to borrow an oft-quoted description of Lou Rawls, “sweet as sugar, soft as velvet, strong as steel, smooth as butter.” Mammina, with her fluid pop-jazz-country sensibility, blends strong hints of Cyndi Lauper and Dolly Parton with the coy insouciance of Blossom Dearie.
“Though their 15-track playlist includes jazz standards, among them a dreamy “Dancing on the Ceiling” and a wistful “All MY Tomorrows”, they share a special bent for reimagining more contemporary pop hits. Associated with both the easy lope of B.J. Thomas and the hammering of Blue Swede, “Hooked on a Feeling” comes wrapped in silk and is cleverly combined with Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.” Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me”, Michael Johnson’s “Bluer Than Blue” and George Harrison’s “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)” are likewise snugly cocooned. The Dead get their due with a little “Crazy Fingers,” while the urgency of the Doobie Brothers’ “Takin’ It to the Streets” is superbly transfigured. Rounding out the wide-ranging assortment are two Sturm originals, his gently yearning “We Hesitate” and the self-affirming title track.”
“I absolutely love their CD!!!” — Larry Batiste
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Larry Batiste (Former Music Director for the Grammy Awards)
February 22, 2016
“It’s been a long time since I’ve come across a CD that compelled me to listen to every song from top to bottom, and left me wanting for more. The song selections and performances truly reflect the incredible chemistry between Jenna and Rolf. Needless to say, I absolutely love their CD!!! Go Jenna & Rolf!!”
“It'll be on my 'Best of 2017' as well.” — Aspen Public Radio
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Aspen Public Radio, Koral Young Show — Andrea Young
April 26, 2017
“We Hesitate is a beautiful and lyrically written anthem! It’ll be on my ‘Best of 2017’ as well… I hosted my monthly jazz show last night on Aspen Public Radio and played ‘We Hesitate’ — its my favorite track on the album. I know its not really ‘jazz’ but it was still a great fit, and I actually got a call from a listener asking me for more info on that track.”
“The two excel... exceptional... Mammina and Sturm make a great duo who program their performances with great thought...” — All About Jazz
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All About Jazz — C. Michael Bailey
March 19, 2017
“Neither Jenna Mammina nor Rolf Sturm, together or solo, are strangers to these pages. Mammina released Under the Influence (MGR) in 2000 and Strum offered us his superb Young (Water Street Music) in 2016. The two of them showed up with Spark (Water Street Music) in 2015. Sturm is a nylon-string guitar specialist perfectly suited to provide foil to the coquettish and intelligent vocals of Mammina. Their Spark was well received and featured old and new music presented in new and often genre-jolting ways.
“On Begin to Dance, the pair pick up where they left off with Spark, this time peppering jazz standards like “It’s Only Love” and “All My Tomorrows” with BJ Thomas’ “Hooked on a Feeling” mashed up with Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.” Sturm’s guitar playing brings whatever is necessary to the songs to support Mammina’s every whim. He is equally capable of providing the bare-bones chording for the Doobie Brothers’ “Takin’ it to the Streets” and the pleasant filigree he offers in Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me.” But it is the jazz tunes where the two excel. The pair hits their collective stride on “L-O-V-E” with Sturm turning in an exceptional hot-club solo. Mammina and Sturm make a great duo who program their performances with great thought and a true sense of humor.
Track Listing: Hooked on a Feeling/Black Hole Sun; It’s Only Love; Begin to Dance; Dancing on the Ceiling; I Want You To Want Me; We Hesitate; Takin’ it to the Streets; All My Tomorrows; A Place That I Call Home; L-O-V-E; Hello, It’s Me; Strollin’; Bluer Than Blue; Crazy Fingers; Give Me Love.”
Interview — The Daily Item
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The Daily Item, “Life” Section — Rick Dandes
April 2, 2017
Rolf Sturm, who grew up in Lewisburg, and vocal stylist Jenna Mammina would seem to be an odd pairing of west coast chanteuse meeting east coast cool jazz guitarist. Until you hear them perform together. Sturm and Mammina’s second CD, “Begin to Dance”, has just been released, and it continues in the vein of the first – acoustic standards and interpretations of modern rock favorites by bands like Soundgarden and Elvis Costello. Sturm, who performed in Lewisburg teen bands like the Marquee and The PPits, released the music on his own Water Street Music label – named after the street address of the home he grew up in, he said. Playing music together was something both Sturm and Mammina thought about years ago. “I first met Rolf as a rehearsal for a rock orchestra in New York City back in 1995,” she said. The band was called Illuminati. “Illuminati was a 20-piece group that played the music of the Grateful Dead,” Mammina said. Sturm recalls that they recorded and toured for about three years with “some guys from the Grateful Dead. The tours were on the east coast, the west coast, and a little bit in Canada. As you can imagine, it was like touring with a tiny village.” After that, Mammina returned to her career singing mostly on the west coast. “But I had heard Rolf playing a jazz tune and we had talked about playing and recording as a duo one day,” she said. Seventeen years later, while in New York City for a music conference, Mammina met with Sturm and they decided to resume their musical friendship at his NJ studio. “We decided that we should make that duo recording that we had talked about all those years ago,” Sturm said. “We rehearsed one day, the next day we played a small gig in New York City, and then we went into the studio and recorded our first CD (‘Spark’).” It did really well, Sturm said. “We got a good amount of Nation-wide radio airplay and started to perform just about every month.” One of their most vocal fans was Larry Batiste, the music director for the Grammys. Sturm, a much in demand studio musician, has played in more than 60 CD’s, including recordings that have featured David Johansen (The NY Dolls), Eddie Arnold, Loudon Wainwright, Anthony Braxton, Tony Trischka, Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane), Vassar Clements, Billy Martin, John Medeski, Ethan Iverson (The Bad Plus), The Mills Brothers, Jimmy Knepper (MIngus), and Tom Constanten (Grateful Dead). The new CD is available on iTunes and amazon.com.
Sturm and Mammina will be performing on Wednesday, Aug. 9 at Lewisburg’s Music in the Park series and on Thursday, Aug. 10 at Williamsport’s Bullfrog Brewery.
“... one of the most entertaining discs of the year...” — All About Jazz
All About Jazz, “Notable and Nearly Missed” — C. Michael Bailey
December 25, 2015
“Jenna Mammina & Rolf Strum—Spark (Water Street Music, 2015). West Coast vocalist Jenna Mammina sings with a youthful coquettishness that is provocative azeotrope of equal parts Eartha Kitt, a young Madonna, and Colbie Caillat. She duets here with guitarist Rolf Strum, whom Mammina began working with in the mid-1990s on an orchestral treatment of the Grateful Dead, Illuminati. Vastly pared down, twenty years later, the two record one of the most entertaining discs of the year, sampling music as varied as the Stylistic’s “Betcha by Golly Wow” to Johnny Mercer’s “Dream.” The duo slows down and turns Nat “King” Cole’s “Straighten Up and Fly Right” into a roadhouse gutbucket blues while hinging together “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans” and “I’m Beginning to See the Light.” The pair turn in what has to be one of the most beautifully strange “The Girl from Ipanema.” Isn’t that what it is all about? “
"...everything I’ve heard was terrific. You sound better than ever... it really sounds quite lovely, and I'm looking forward to spending more time with it." — Neil Tesser
September 1, 2015
Creating a ‘Spark‘ — Herald Palladium
Herold Palladium, Creating a ‘Spark’ — Jeremy D. Bonfiglio (Sight & Sound Editor)
August 6, 2015
Rolf Sturm sat in the back of the tour bus settling in for another long stretch.
Touring as part of Joe Gallant’s 20-piece rock orchestra, Illuminati, Sturm pulled out his unplugged electric guitar and began playing a few jazz standards. That’s when Jenna Mammina, a singer in the group, made her way back to join him.
“It was super quiet,” Sturm says by telephone from New York City. “The din of the bus was louder, but somehow she heard it. She said, ‘Do you play standards?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I like playing them,’ and she said she liked singing them so we did a couple of tunes together. Of course we wanted to keep the other 18 people happy so we stopped after a few songs, but we both came away thinking we should do this someday.”
Seventeen years later, Sturm saw a posting from Mammina. Her career had taken her west, to California, where she still lives part time when she’s not in her hometown of St. Joseph or on tour, but she was coming into New York for a music conference and was looking to connect with old friends.
“We got together for tea,” Sturm says. “She wanted to do a lot more playing and a lot more touring. I had been doing a lot of touring in Europe but not domestic stuff, and she had been doing more touring here so we started talking about the possibilities.”
With a lingering sense of unfinished business, the two compared schedules. Mammina booked a five-day return trip to New York. Sturm booked concert dates and 15 hours of studio time.
“This is all before we had really played a note together in almost 20 years,” Sturm says. “But once we started playing we had a real musical connection. That’s when we knew the duo has something really special to it.”
The result is “Spark,” a 12-track album from Mammina and Sturm recorded over those 15 hours last year.
The album, released in January, features everything from a soulful take on The Stylistics’ “Betcha By Golly, Wow” to a shadowy jazz version of Elvis Costello’s “Watching the Detectives.” They also cover Carole King, James Taylor and John Mayer as well as jazz standards such as “Route 66,” “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” and “Love Me or Leave Me.”
“We tried out a bunch of material at a gig in the upper part of Manhattan,” Sturm says. “The next day and a half we spent recording. We had stacks of tunes and it was all done fairly quickly, but to out delight there was a real connection where her voice can shine and my acoustic finger-style guitar can shine.”
That connection will be on display Sunday when the duo performs at The Livery as part of the third annual Nino Mammina Memorial Concert. The event, which also features performances from pianist David Lahm, vocalist Andrew Fisher and guitarist Cam Mammina, among others, honors Jenna Mammina’s late brother, who died in August 2012 after struggling with Parkinson’s and diabetes.
“Nino was a singer and was the music of our family that kept us playing,” Jenna Mammina says. “He was a performer from an early age. I really miss him, and this is a way to keep his memory and his voice alive. Every time I sing I hear him harmonizing with me.”
In fact, Nino Mammina was also a part of Illuminati where Sturm and Jenna Mammina met.
“We were all in that group together for about three years and recorded a few albums together,” Sturm says. “When Jenna told me about this concert, I knew we had to do it together.”
The concert also serves as a bit of a fundraiser for a scholarship fund Jenna Mammina has set up in her brother’s name.
“Every gig I do I put a little bit of that money into a separate account,” Mammina says. “I’ve gone to different music stores and schools that provide books and instruments and things for students and I give them a little bit of money so if someone really wants a music book and they don’t have enough the store will credit them in Nino’s name. It’s just the magic of Nino.”
Meanwhile, Mammina and Sturm have plans to continue to make their own magic on stage. They continue to tour together, have been recording material for a follow-up album, and are looking at touring Europe in 2016.
“We’ve been touring all over the country, getting great radio play and press,” Mammina says. “It’s really worked well for us. It feels right on so many levels. We’ve both played with so many different people that we know what it takes in this business. I think it was all really about timing, just really good timing and the fact we really like each other.”
“This is the perfect CD to be creative to. i HIGHLY recommend this CD!” — Rae Dunn of Rae Dunn Clay
July 27, 2015
“My new favorite studio CD . . . Jenna & Rolf Spark (but i’m a sucker for acoustic music, especially when it’s a guitar). Jenna’s voice is hauntingly pure. this is the perfect CD to be creative to. My favorite track is number 7: long ago and far away. I HIGHLY recommend this CD!”
“The beautifully crafted Spark isn’t a bowling ball heading for a strike. It’s like getting blown over by a feather.” — Tony Trischka
Tony Trischka (Banjo Virtuoso)
July 27, 2015
“Rolf Sturm is one of my favorite guitarists of all time. His electric playing is off the scale in terms of creativity, outside of the boxiness, tonishness and a million other elements. Spark lets him explore his acoustic side, which is equally compelling and luscious. It’s a chord fiesta with great arrangements (and that’s with just two people), feels, compositions… Carole King, James Taylor, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, and…..Rolf Sturm. I love his “Talk to Me.” After many spins on the turntable, I still am driven to come back to it. “I’m just raving about Rolf because I was deliriously happy playing in a band with him for several years. “I’ve still not met Jenna, but her voice is supernal and she can deliver a tune as if she invented it. She can play it “straight” or sing “fast and take chances.” “The beautifully crafted Spark isn’t a bowling ball heading for a strike. It’s like getting blown over by a feather.”
"Tender and fabulous!" — WBGO
WBGO Jazz 88.3, Jazz After Hours — Brian Delp
July 1, 2015
“…strongly reminiscent of Laurindo Almeida...distinct interpretive hints of her hero Abbey Lincoln...” — Jazz Times
Jazz Times — Christopher Loudon
July 1, 2015
“What began as a casual introduction at a rehearsal for a Grateful Dead tribute orchestra has blossomed into a fine pop-jazz partnership, and it only took two decades. The band was Joe Gallant’s Illuminati and, throughout their shared three-year stint in the mid-’90s, vocalist Jenna Mammina and guitarist Rolf Sturm worked on plans to tour and record as a duo. But life and other career opportunities got in the way. Then, early last year, their paths re-crossed at a Manhattan music conference and the urge to unite was relit.
Sturm’s rock, pop and folk leanings, all evident across these dozen tracks, have synthesized into a jazz-informed style strongly reminiscent of Laurindo Almeida. Mammina’s sweet, pure, slightly fragile sound simultaneously suggests Cyndi Lauper and Kat Edmonson, yet there are distinct interpretive hints of her hero Abbey Lincoln (to whom she paid album-length tribute in 2013). Mammina is also a vaunted educator, with popular kids’ programs devoted to both rock and jazz.
“Their playlist is as eclectic as their histories, venturing from the silken soul of the Stylistics’ “Betcha by Golly, Wow” to the shadowy folds of Elvis Costello’s “Watching the Detectives.” They cover Carole King, James Taylor, John Mayer, even Jobim. But Mammina and Sturm’s most interesting interplay is reserved for jazz standards: a sexy, almost pouty “Route 66”; a loping, misty “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans”; and a sharp-edged “Love Me or Leave Me.” “
“They are a fantastic jazz-pop voice-and-guitar duo and they pretty much had me in tears.” — Mediaredefined.com
Mediaredefined.com — Matty Karas (curator music+tech+biz+culture mix)
June 01, 2015
"Wonderful repertoire. Rapturous arrangements.” — JazzWest.com
JazzWest.com — Wayne Saroyan (Editor and Publisher)
March 3, 2015
“Together their improvisational abilities are both impressive and expressive.” — JazzUSA
JazzUSA — Paula Edelstein
“Pop/Jazz vocalist/songwriter Jenna Mammina and guitarist Rolf Sturm offer their listeners 12 exceptional songs on their first recording together called Spark. Many of the songs such as “Talk To Me,” “Get Your Kicks On Route 66” and “I’m Beginning to See The Light” are from the 1950s and 1960s but now have a jazz twist. “The duo also update the Stylistics’ tune “Betcha, By Golly Wow,” and later move from the Philadelphia International Sound to a sweet Brazilian fantasy called “The Girl From Ipanema.” “Overall, this eclectic vocalist and fingerstyle player effortlessly alternate between swinging jazz chords and beautifully executed melodies. Together their improvisational abilities are both impressive and expressive.”
“Tasty stuff for the discerning, contemporary set of ears.” — Midwest Record
March 7, 2015
“Veterans of an orchestral Grateful Dead tribute show, they bonded in the back of the bus over insomnia and found a shared love of the same songs. Flash forward and here they are as a guitar/vocal duo with so much mutual strength you almost can’t tell where one’s contributions end and the other begins. A recording of familiar oldies from several generations, this is a tasty, low key recording for the connoisseur, rather than the hoi polloi, who can really appreciate a familiar song turned inside out before being turned back out, in a most pleasing way. Tasty stuff for the discerning, contemporary set of ears.”
“Mammina... has one of the most distinctive, seductive voices in pop/jazz music today... Sturm’s virtuosic playing.” — The Daily Item
The Daily Item — Rick Dandes
Lewisburg-born guitarist Rolf Sturm’s latest project is an extraordinary collaboration with vocalist Jenna Mammina, a San Francisco-based singer, who has one of the most distinctive, seductive voices in pop/jazz music today. The combination of Sturm’s virtuosic playing and Mammina’s smoky torch-singing style is the highlight of a very subdued, but wonderful new CD titled “Spark.”
Sturm has released 15 CDs on his own Water Street Music label — named after the Lewisburg street address of the home he grew up in — but is a highly in-demand session player, with appearances on more than 60 CDs.
He first met Mammina at a rehearsal for a rock orchestra in New York City back in 1995.
The band was called Illuminati.
“It was a 20-piece group that was primarily playing the music of the Grateful Dead,” Sturm explained. “We recorded and toured with a some guys from the Grateful Dead. The tours were on the east coast, the west coast, and a little bit in Canada. As you can imagine it was like touring with a tiny village.”
Those days were filled with extremely long bus rides where people were piled on top of each other.
“Jenna and I both had a touch of insomnia,” Sturm said. “We found ourselves awake in the back of the bus at three in the morning. After talking, we realized we both liked jazz standards. I took out my guitar and we would very quietly play some tunes together. Illuminati was a pretty loud and full-sounding band, so these super quiet duets in the back of the bus seemed like a little oasis. We both said that we should play and record as a duo someday.”
Mammina eventually left the band and went back to the Bay Area in California, where she had a successful independent career, playing and recording with different artists. Sturm stayed in the New York area.
About a year ago, Mammina sent out an email saying she was briefly coming to New York for a music conference, and was anyone still around?
Sturm responded and they decided to get some tea and catch up on what we’d been up to.
“We realized that we both were itching to get out on the road and perform more,” he said. “We decided that ‘someday’ had finally arrived.”
In June, after returning to the east coast, they rehearsed one day and the next day had their first gig in 17 or 18 years. “And then the next day and a half we went into the studio and recorded the tracks that are now the CD ‘Spark,’” Sturm said. “It all happened pretty quickly, but we are both really motivated to move forward with this duo.”
The first thing that hits you about the music is Mammina’s voice.
“Jenna has a marvelously unique voice. It is light and delicate, but it is infused with the wisdom and depth of life’s experiences. We both tend to approach the making of music from silence. Which is to say we both appreciate that silence is the palette we add to when creating music, as opposed to slamming an audience with a wall of sound right out of the gates. This quieter approach can leave more space for the listener to contemplate and experience the music on their own terms,” Sturm said.
The songs are a mix of old classics and some classic rock interpreted, such as Elvis Costello’s “Watching the Detective.”
Sturm said the album features old and new standards.
“We play songs that resonate with us, regardless of the genre or era,” he said.
Heavy metal music this is not.
The idea of performing as a duo, without a backing band on the disc, left room for Jenna’s voice to be expressive without being sonically overwhelmed.
“And it allows me space to play bass lines, chords, or counter-melodies at any time during a song in order to craft an accompaniment that is immediately responsive to Jenna’s voice,” Sturm said. “This setting is very communicative and musically it can get very intimate.
“And then, of course, when considering the cold, hard realities of the music business, a duo is a lot more practical for traveling; two plane tickets, two hotel rooms, a simple sound check and set up.”
“I find myself completely drawn into it....” — Copper Magazine
CLOSE YOUR EYES (Blue Coast Records)
Copper Magazine, Review of “Wicked Games” cover
November 20, 2017
“Chris Izaak’s “Wicked Game” is the only track on the album that at first seems out of place. Just Jenna with a simply plucked guitar accompaniment, but somehow I find myself completely drawn into it. I think it is all down to how artfully the vocal is delivered, and the empty sound of the guitar just captures the emotion perfectly.”
Jenna's Various Quotes
“Jenna could sing a page from the phone book and make it sound like her own private piece of the sky. Like a devious detective, she can look around a room of any size and use that gift to freestyle a song on the spot about the people in it, including her band.” — Kimberlye Gold
“Mammina deserves to be more widely heard.” — Don Heckman, LA Times
“There’s a cleverness and jocularity about Jenna’s way of singing a song that coupled with her unique voice and malleable sensibility, suggests “discovery” in a big way – is just around the corner.” — Willard Jenkins, Africana.com
“She doesn’t just cover Warren Zevon, Elvis Costello and James Taylor, she reupholsters them, she unwinds a song as if each word dangled from a string of twinkling charms and delicately snaps consonants like wishbones.” — Hew Hallock
“She teases it, toys with it, laughs with it, vocally dances with it, and, ultimately, the singer, and the song embrace one another, to the pleasure of the audience. If these disks inspire you to seek out one of her club or concert engagements, be forewarned: You’ll have fun.” — Ben Fong-Torres
“Is it blasphemy to suggest that someone else could sing Abbey Lincoln’s songs with the same grit and majesty as Lincoln herself? If so, call me a blasphemer, because I believe Jenna Mammina has done just that.” — Neil Tesser
Rolf's Various Quotes
“Rolf Sturm is an astounding fingerstyle player effortlessly alternating between swinging jazz chords and beautifully executed single note lines. His improvisational abilities are both impressive and expressive..Sturm is a prodigious talent and is an unparalleled virtuoso of the nylon stringed guitar. “Balance” is highly recommended and should be required listening for all fans of contemporary music.” — James Scott, Minor 7th Webzine review of Rolf’s solo CD: Balance
“Rolf Sturm, a broadminded guitarist.” — New York Times
“(FOUR STARS) Rolf Sturm…delivers 10 solo acoustic performances that resonate with verve. Sturm’s style encompasses elements of classical, American roots music, and flamenco, and he mixes them so seamlessly and constantly that they become their own anagram. Regardless of his approach, each piece is suffused with tremendous energy and movement.” — James Hale, “Six String Magicians,” DownBeat Magazine
“He is one of the best solo acoustic and electric guitarists in the business, an in-demand sideman, comfortable playing in almost any style, and much admired by established artists of all genres.” — Rick Dandes, “Applause,” Daily Item
“…not since the likes of Charlie Byrd, Laurindo Almeda, Bola Sete, Eddie Duran, and Gene Bertoncini has the classic guitar made such a successful cross over into jazz… Enter Rolf Sturm and his wonderful ability to “balance” classical technique with jazz sensibilities… The lute and the guitar have a long relationship with the duende (the soulful muse as sought after in particular by Spanish guitarists). BALANCE is hard and fast evidence that the duende lives in the very soul of the guitar and in its blessed legacy of modern soul mates such as Rolf Sturm.” — Bob Gish, Jazz Inside
“…a distinct and compelling acoustic voice… Rolf has a sturdy melodic sense, imbued with a sense of inevitability…Rolf is also a master of scrumptious chord motion.” — Tony Trischka (banjo master)
“Sturm is one of those heaviest cats you’ve heard but never heard of… he’s such a master of the form that you better get to know him by name. acoustic guitar fans have to raise him to the pantheon of the greats.” — Chris Spector, Midwest Record, April 27, 2016
“He is a guitarist of expansive facility and a sense of humor, to boot. The old a new meld into an informed continuum serving to remind us that all music as a thread passing through civilization connecting all time.” — C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz, April 25, 2016
“Victor Young’s catalogue is custom made for Sturm’s beautiful touch, harmonic appreciation and musical acumen… Sturm impresses with how he can take Victor Young songs from as early as 1918 that have been performed to death and make them his own,, true artistry.” — Elliott Simon, The New York City Jazz Record, April 2016
“I’ve just been listening to “Young”, and it’s lovely. Such nice touch, very warm interpretations…” — Howard Mandel “Jazz Journalist’s Association,” Feb. 2016