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Shalagaster by Jenny Scheinman

In the short space of less than five years, violinist Jenny Scheinman has burst onto the scene, recording as a guest on nearly twenty-five releases, including such high profile dates as Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me and Bill Frisell’s The Intercontinentals. With Shalagaster, her third release as a leader, she continues to show what musicians seem to already know; that she is an artist who, with a virtuoso talent on her instrument, is an astute player, with a musicality that is broad in reach and deep in resonance.

What Scheinman doesn’t play is just as important as what she does. On the Jewish music-inflected "Nigun," a duet with pianist Myra Melford, found on this track playing harmonium, Scheinman creates a thick ambience with notes that are long on substance and rich in tone. Scheinman also plays with an uncanny visual style. On the opening track, "Into the Clearing," one can picture the sun rising on a wide open space at dawn. And on "Wiseacre", a klezmer-meets-new music romp, she shows that it’s equally important to maintain a sense of humour in music.

The CD packaging calls her music "modern folk jazz;" what it doesn’t say is that the folk elements are not only North American; while there is certainly Americana in the extended piece, "New View of the Horse," there is the already-mentioned "Nigun," "Tango for Luna," and the slightly Celtic feel of "Zeynebim." An oblique sense of the blues figures into "Milk Bottle" and a stronger jazz sensibility is peppered throughout the two versions of "American Dipper." The closing track, "See Through," demonstrates Scheinman’s affinity for contemporary classical music.

Passionate and lyrical, Scheinman has surrounded herself with sympathetic players who are equally expressive, and clearly understand the breadth of her vision. Melford, more often heard in avant-garde and post bop surroundings, shows surprising scope, matching Scheinman style-for-style; Russ Johnson’s trumpet melds perfectly with Scheinman, creating a texture that is rich and full; bassist Trevor Dunn, a fixture on the New York Downtown Scene, demonstrates an astute ability to choose exactly the right note at the right time; and drummer Kenny Wollesen, known for his work with artists including Bill Frisell, Norah Jones, Sex Mob and Dave Douglas, is as comfortable with DeJohnette-style cymbal-work as he is laying down a Jim Keltner-like backbeat.

Shalagaster is part of the Oracle Series on John Zorn’s groundbreaking Tzadik label; a series which "celebrates the diversity and creativity of women in experimental music." With artists like Scheinman and collaborator Melford, there is much to celebrate; found within is music with a melodic sensibility that is deeply moving and often-times exciting without being overtly sentimental or melodramatic. It is this sensibility that provides the thread that ties together a diverse programme of material from Jenny Scheinman, who is rapidly emerging as an artist of consequence.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jenny Scheinman
  • CD Title: Shalagaster
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Tzadik
  • Tracks: 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
  • Musicians: Jenny Scheinman (violin), Myra Melford (piano, harmonium), Russ Johnson (trumpet), Trevor Dunn (bass), Kenny Wollesen (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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