Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Jenny Scheinman – Shalagaster (Tzadik, 2004)

Jenny Scheinman plays the violin and has been on the creative music scene for several years now, but she really burst forth into the jazz consciousness over the past couple of years by recording and playing high profile gigs with Bill Frisell (she was an integral part of his superb Intercontinentals disc form last year), John Zorn and others. On this latest CD, she is joined by Myra Melford on piano and harmonium, Russ Johnson on trumpet, Trevor Dunnon bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums. Scheinman also composed all of the songs.

The music is an interesting mix of folk and ethnic music along with modern jazz composition and improvisation. Having a heavyweight composer and pianist like Melford on board ensures that the music will not become static. Her piano is particularly rhapsodic and beautiful on "American Dipper (M)" where she mixes dark chords in with a beautifully flowing improvisation to invoke sorrow and mystery. The harmonium that Melford uses on occasion is an interesting touch as well, giving the music a slightly gypsyish flavor. The leader's violin is also capable of invoking differing emotions throughout the course of the disc, from the playful and sprightly "Wiseacre," to beautiful nostalgia on "Tango for Luna" and then matching Melford's intensity with a scalding solo of her own on "American Dipper (M)."

This is an interesting and diverse album of music that should appeal to many open eared music fans. The music is diverse without being scattered and intense and emotional without being too draining. While Scheinmann is associated with the downtown free jazz crowd to some extent, she should not be pidgeon-holed because this disc shows considerable depth and breadth in both her composing and instrumental ability. She strikes out on an original path and it pays off in a very nice album.

Send comments to: Tim