Jenny Scheinman's got it going on

I’ve been following Jenny Scheinman for a few years now: her frequent Tuesday night sets at Barbes, a small Brooklyn bar and sometimes-jazzclub not far from my house; her side gigs with the likes of Bill Frisell, Jason Moran, and Ben Allison at various clubs in Manhattan; her wry CDs, most notably 12 Songs.

But I’ve never seen her so fiery, so fluent across so many musical styles, or just having so much damn fun as last night at the Village Vanguard, leading a quartet she calls Mayhem & Mischief.

Scheinman’s music has always blended jazz, folk, bluegrass, and blues, with the occasional hint of chamber and rock. But joined by a group that includes electric guitarist Nels Cline (who, of course, plays with Wilco as well as several avant-leaning jazz groups), drummer Jim Black (whose slapdash but disciplined polyrhythms egg everyone on), and bassist Todd Sickafoose (who lays down a tight, mean bassline, assuring his bandmates that they can fly far and high, knowing the tether to earth is secure)—well, it rocks, it’s just thrilling, I haven’t smiled so much at a jazz concert in ages.

This isn’t the usual sort of “fusion,” which blends jazz and rock (and perhaps another genre or two) into some homogenous soundscape. No, Scheinman & Co. retain each style’s distinctive idiom while somehow clanging, melding, sometimes even seamlessly weaving them together.

Sometimes for instance, Scheinman bows a lovely ballad, Cline wails or strums some slightly off-centered chords or twirls some electronic effects, Black klook-a-mops the trapset, Sickafoose lays down the law—and everybody in the packed Vanguard is tapping his foot and swaying his head (or her foot and head: lots of women in the house).

There’s no noise. This is composed music—all written by Scheinman, much of it in the last few months, intricate enough to demand a top-notch band to make it simmer and boil. This is such a band.

They play through Sunday. Good news for those who can’t make it: Scheinman told me after the set that she’s taking them into a recording studio at the end of the week. Watch out for that album!

jrmandude's picture

I loved here Americana-folky album. This combination of Americana and Jazz in one musician is cool. Reminds me of the Charlie Haden album. I hope we see more of it.