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Jenny Scheinman: Shalagaster

Mark Corroto By

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At some point in the ongoing developments of postmodern American music, the eclecticism that is the signature of this movement had to take on a more personal approach or forever be assigned to the obscurity of novelty music. Like Dizzy Gillespie’s absorption of Latin music or John Coltrane’s incorporation of Indian themes, violinist Jenny Scheinman’s music gathers from many sources, but feels very much like a "Jenny Scheinman record."

Her personal statement encapsulated in this Tzadik Oracle Series is a collaborated effort with pianist Myra Melford. Scheinman wrote the music, and Melford the support. Melford doubles on both the piano and harmonium, an instrument she has set time aside of late to study and master.

Scheinman’s highly visible roles in bands led by Bill Frisell, Norah Jones, Vinicius Cantuaria, and Marc Ribot have gathered her much attention. Her two sessions as leader include a live date on the Japanese Avant label, Live At Yoshi’s (2000), and an installment in John Zorn’s Radical Jewish Series, The Rabbi’s Lover (2002).

This quintet with Melford, Trevor Dunn (bass), Kenny Wollesen (drums) and Russ Johnson (trumpet) is an extra large slice of Americana that would be very appropriate in Amsterdam’s Bimhaus. She plays around (and around) with a traveling circus huckster on “Wiseacre,” the "house band" accenting every pratfall and banana slip. The band marches the working-all-day song “Milk Bottle” from what feels like Traffic’s “Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys.”

When she does look outside of North America for influence, Brazil touches “American Dipper.” The Indian raga tone on “Nigun” is echoed by Scheinman and Melford’s harmonium, which begs to be expanded from its economical four minute length. The only track she didn’t compose, “Zeynebim,” is a Middle Eastern processional. Perhaps the most alluring track is the slow boil of her “Tango For Luna,” where Russ Johnson’s muted trumpet touches on the lazy playful bowing of the leader.

Jenny Scheinman’s sound is certainly a coveted prize in and of itself.


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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