Jenny Scheinman: Mischief and Mayhem (2012)
The loping rhythm of "A Ride With Polly Jean" seduces from the get go, and Jim Black's perfectly placed trio of bass drum hits early on give the number its liftoff. Scheinman's uncluttered, bewitching playing raises goose bumps, and she is lent telling support by bassist Todd Sickafoose's mantra-like double-bass ostinato and guitarist Nels Cline's deftness on six strings, and atmospheric, hazy loops. It's a stunning opener and would serve well as a soundtrack for a spaghetti mid-western, conjuring big, open spaces and epic adventure.
Scheinman explores African flavors on "Sand Dipper" and "Ali Farka Touché." "Sand Dipper" successfully juxtaposes a stripped down earthinesswith lilting violin center-stagewith a brooding restlessness. On "Ali Farka Touché," Cline and Scheinman combine in rootsy homage to Ali Farka Torre, evoking perfectly the spirit of the late Malian singer/guitarist. Scheinman is as much at home exploring African sounds as she is playing jazz or folksy fiddle tunes, as witnessed on "Baba Drame," from Frisell's The Intercontinentals (Nonesuch, 2003) and Scheinman's own "Song for Sidiki" from Crossing the Field (KOCH Records, 2008); clearly a whole album of African-inspired music wouldn't go amiss.
There's some serious mischief about "Blues For Double Vee," a lovingly irreverent tribute to the Village Vanguard; surf-punk drums spur some gritty country-rock from Cline and a paint-stripper of a solo from Scheinman, which contains the energetic swing and rough edges of violinist Stuff Smith. A punkish energy runs through "The Mite," a heady workout featuring inspired playing from Cline and Scheinman at the epicenter of intense group interplay.
Scheinman explores more meditative terrain on three tracks, which though spaced apart, form a sort of triptych. The dream-like lament of "Devil's Ink" lulls before delivering a sting in the tail; "The Audit" contains a less dark lyricism, and "July Tenth in Three Four"featuring a poignant solo from Sickafoosedawns like a spring morning. These tracks should appeal to fans of Californian experimenters I Heart Lung.
Scheinman has led this band for five years, but its debut release has been well worth the wait. Song form and improvisation go hand-in-hand, blurring the lines between jazz, folk, African roots, rock and experimental soundscapes. Scheinman is a compelling story teller; is it any wonder Frisell calls upon her services time and time again?
Track Listing: A Ride With Polly Jean; Sand Dipper; Blues For The Double Vee; Devil's Ink; The Audit; Ali Farka Touché; July Tenth In Three Four; The Mite.
Personnel: Jenny Scheinman: violin; Nels Cline: guitars; Todd Sickafoose: bass; Jim Black: drums.
Record Label: Self Produced
Style: Fringes of Jazz