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Jenny Scheinman: Shalagaster

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Jenny Scheinman’s third solo album, Shalagaster, shimmers with such an array of color that it could work quite nicely as the score to a silent film. In fact, with a traipsing swagger and harmonies that gleam like satin, the record recalls a bit of silver screen romance. But purely old fashioned it is not. The violinist’s manipulation of sound and texture convey a thoroughly real, of the moment, visage.

Featuring Myra Melford on piano and harmonium, Russ Johnson on trumpet, Trevor Dunn on bass, and Kenny Wollesen on drums, Shalagaster joins Tzadik’s Oracle series, heralding women composers. Scheinman proves an unprecedented talent with this release, not only among her female peers, but within the entire scope of contemporary composers. Fully dressed tracks are decked out with all the right accessories. But these pieces don’t wear monochrome shades; they’re each embellished with all kinds of colorful trinkets that complement and enhance the package.

“Tango For Luna” throbs with visions of black lace and red roses. Johnson and Scheinman dance together, weaving in and out through Wollesen’s shakers, and Dunn’s solid, thick-stringed steps. Harmonies swell with elegance. Trumpet and violin blend so well on this track that one is not conceivable without the other. And when Melford enters with her piano solo, she strikes the listener with gracious luster.

Sublimely sensual musicianship gives breath and pulse to Scheinman’s compositions. While Wollesen expands the sounds to celestial levels with smashing cymbals and dusty percussion, Melford brings earthly levels to the music with glistening piano, filling in any transparent shades. During “American Dipper,” Melford and Wollesen get ensnared in a wicked mesh of percussion, reaching near ecstatic heights before Scheinman cuts in brandishing her gracefully singeing bow like a whip across the violin strings.

Shalagaster brims with personality. From the “don’t mess with me” groove of “Milk Bottle” to the feisty melody of “Wiseacres,” Scheinman creates truly memorable characters in each track.


Track Listing: Into the Clearing, American Dipper, Tango for Luna, Milk Bottle, The Lucky Hum, Wiseacre, New View of the Horse, American Dipper, Nigun, Zeynebim, See Through

Personnel: Jenny Scheinman--violin; Myra Melford--harmonium and piano; Russ Johnson--trumpet; Trevor Dunn--bass; Kenny Wollesen--drums

Title: Shalagaster | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Tzadik

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