Jenny Scheinman
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Jenny Scheinman
Jenny Scheinman

Jenny Scheinman
Crossing the Field
Both on Koch Records (

Violinist and singer Jenny Scheinman's list of credits is revelatory: Bill Frisell, Vinicius Cantuaria, Norah Jones, Gabriela, Sheldon Brown, Lucinda Williams, John Zorn, Marc Ribot, Greg Leisz, Danny Barnes, Marta Topferova, Pablo Ablanedo, The Hot Club of San Francisco, and countless others. Voted Downbeat's "rising star violinist" five years straight, of late Scheinman seems to be concentrating more on her own music, and new companion titles reveal something of her remarkable artistic range. Crossing the Field ("the instrumental extravaganza," she calls it) enlists the inimitable Frisell and jazz pianist Jason Moran, founding members of the Brooklyn Rider string quartet, and a full orchestra. This is a sweeping work that moves between the tongue-in-cheek funk of "Hard Sole Shoe" to the contemporary American classical feel of "Einsamaller," the angular jazz of "That's Delight," to the bluesy "Awful Sad," a galloping cosmopolitan "I Heart Eye Patch," the contemplative, not-so-Wild-Western atmospherics one associates with Frisell ("Born into This"), or the West African lilt of "Song for Sidiki."

Scheinman's eponymous title is also her vocal debut, exploring another side of a partly imagined, partly resurrected American songbook. Backed primarily by producer Tony Scherr (guitars, harmony vocals, loops, tambourine), and opening with Dylan's "I Was Young When I Left Home," Scheinman locks in on a high lonesome vocal sound that never gets too sweet. Her own R&B leanings are manifest on Jimmy Reed's "Shame Shame Shame" and her own "Come On Down," counter to relaxed renditions of the Lucinda Williams ballad, "King of Hearts," Mississippi John Hurt's mournful "Miss Collins," and Tom Waits' "Johnsburg, Illinois." Something of a disappointment if the chestnut "Twilight Time," which the stiff, unimaginative drumming undermines. But Scheinman's "Newspaper Angels," wherein "loneliness… sits by the window and waits," and her eerie composition "The Green," about the disappearance of her aunt, confirm a developing singer-songwriter talent in the folk idiom. - Michael Stone

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