Jenny Scheinman: Touching Many Strings
"I haven't listened to it since I made it. I listened to it so much making it. But I've heard it on the radio a couple times and I've thought, 'Wow. It was pretty good.' It's such a trip to hear music that I'm so close to coming out, she says thoughtfully. "I heard it at the Village Vanguard one night, which is a big honor. But it sounded pretty good in there. I'm happy with it. It's out there now. I certainly worked my ass off on this thing.
"There are some musicians that just go into the studio, put up some mics, record, and then send it to the label and the label mixes it, makes the artwork, sequences it, puts it out. If I did that, I'd probably make a lot more records. But, fortunately or unfortunately, I agonize over every detail. So I know it really well. I am happy with it, for sure.
"This is the biggest band I've recorded. My last two records were five people and before that was four. Just adding two people added the depth that I wanted, which is that kind of orchestral quality that I hear in it. But is also is trickier for mixing, in my sense of how I wanted it to sound. I didn't want it to sound like a jazz record. I wanted it to sound really cohesive; little sculptures.
She said there were a lot of overdubs done, but almost none were used, except for a trumpet part on "She Couldn't Believe It Was True. The extra music "was in my head and I wanted to see what it sounded like. When it actually came to mixing it, I didn't use any of that.
The extra music came in handy, however, at the release party for 12 Songs, which involved an orchestra with 20 strings in addition to the band. "I had to really arrange it. I took some of the parts that actually weren't on the record that we had overdubbed, but not used enriching harmony parts that seemed a little too rich I'm not into things that are too rich but with all the strings it was fun. And it was live, she said.
Is it a jazz record?
"I think that's a jazz record, pretty much, she says as if weighing the matter while she speaks. "Stuff is all changing. There's the Internet. People are listening to all sorts of stuff. I think in 10 years the only people that will be playing what we call 'mainstream jazz' will be somewhat historically oriented.
"I'm a huge appreciator of jazz and I have played a lot of it, and write for jazz musicians, because they are practiced intuitors. They can flesh out things. They can keep it always different. I get really bored in bands where I have to play the same thing. As much as I like pop music, I can't really stand to play it. In terms of recordings, I do like crafted things, rather than long solos. I've never had a bass solo on my records. I don't think I've ever had a drum solo. That's not very jazzy, not to have those on your record. What other genre's have bass solos. They don't usually sound so good. They're great live, though.
"My records are much less jazzy than I often am live. I'm a big-time explorer. I love the risk of jazz. I love the risk of improvisation and of difficulty. It's a very rigorous kind of music. I listen to lots of different kinds of music, but I have listened to a lot of jazz. Recently I've been obsessed with a new Coltrane/Monk album ( Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall) and I've gone back through all my Monk records and I'm listening to those. Almost everything I've transcribed has been jazz. Lester Young and Sonny Rollins and Coltane. I think I transcribed all of Crescent [Coltrane] when I was 15 or something.
"But it's a new world. People are listening to all sorts of stuff. It's hard to keep it in any one groove.
Is she a jazz musician?
"I think that's up for the critics to decide, I don't know. I might do a whole record of singingI sing too. When I sing, it's nothing original and jazzy. I can't sing a jazz tune to save my life. When I sing, it's old country music and some blues and folk music. I explore a lot of folk music. I have a pretty versatile instrument and it's pretty easy for it to wander in different genres, and it has for a long time. It's portable. People just wander around with it on their back.
The jazz question may be interesting, but its answer is not a big deal.
There seems to be many different flavors to 12 Songs and the quirky titles found therein. It's folky, pastoral in places. Ethereal at times. Joyful, and other times moody. "I was thinking about lyrical qualities in a melody very much when I was writing it; playing like a singer, she says. "The album is very focused on the melodies and the composition, rather than blowing, like on some jazz records. So it has that slight pop sensibility, I guess. I'm focusing on the content of the composition.