The band's the thing

Jenny Scheinman, Regattabar, August 6, 2007
By JON GARELICK  |  August 13, 2007
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Jenny Scheinman

Jenny Scheinman has become the go-to gal for mixed-genre violin, from Jewish music to jazz and folk and klezmer, Bill Frisell to Norah Jones to Linda Perry to Sean Lennon. But — despite five solo LPs — she doesn’t tour much fronting her own band. Which made her show at the Regattabar a week ago Wednesday special. That and the music itself.

Scheinman hasn’t earned her reputation through flash-and-burn — no extended runs of 16th and 32nd notes. Rather, it’s her ear, taste, tact, and assured sound that makes her so valuable to her cohort. At the Regattabar, the eight tunes her band played in their 70-minute set emphasized group interaction, dynamics, and Scheinman’s compositions and arrangements. So she was content to dig into one of her affecting folk-like melodies over a loose odd meter on “The American Dipper” and let guitarist Dave Tronzo (filling in for Nels Cline, who was ill with chicken pox) smoke the place with his fretwork and mix of odd slides. “Albert” was named for Albert Ayler, “one of my favorite songwriters,” but the slow, stately theme alluded to that avant-garde spirit chaser’s folk melodies, not his wild atonal flights. The wonderful drummer Jim Black played all manner of polyrhythmic and arrhythmic clatter and thump against bassist Todd Sickafoose’s steady beats, but everything Black did was structural as well as atmospheric: he used a small temple bell not just to create the emotional space of “Nigun” but also to build tension against the slow minor-key lament of the melody. “The Mite” began with a two-note rock groove on guitar and built to a series of whiplash rave-ups by the whole band. And the ballad-tempo “Antenna,” considerably reworked from the version on Scheinman’s 12 Songs (Cryptogramophone), emphasized the five-beat ostinato in the rhythm section played against her little three-note cell of a melody — whenever the melody came around again, she dipped her knees to the beat.

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