Jenny Scheinman, Mischief & Mayhem

Dan Ouellette

By Dan Ouellette

on 03.06.12 in Reviews
Jazz with a contrarian and playful outlook

Rebels all, Jenny Scheinman’s elite quartet of improvisers negotiate her eight sinuous and indelibly lyrical originals with carefree joy, jaunty giddiness and plucky valor – creating a delightful jazz/not jazz piece of art that defies easy categorization. While the violinist’s melodies serve as the center of gravity, she and guitarist Nels Cline (a spirited jazz star who was enlisted by Wilco to orchestrate its music), bassist Todd Sickafoose (a mainstay in Ani DiFranco‘s band) and drummer Jim Black (a New York Downtown jazz vet) collaborate on a journey-like story that at turns rocks and muses, drives and grooves, shreds and calms. Cline with his electronics expertise and Black with his unpredictable drum voicings create the radiant sonic textures that allow Scheinman, who bows with both a frenzy and a beauty as well as plays pizzicato percussively, to entwine with her band mates as well as float above. On the 43-plus-minute adventure, she goes uptempo in her tribute to the Malian guitar great Ali Farka Touré (“Ali Farka Touché” that opens and closes with Cline’s trance loops) and fantasizes driving the PCH with PJ Harvey on the buoyant “A Ride With Polly Jean.” She slackens the pace with the mysterious “Sand Dipper” and descends into a subterranean soundscape on with the eerie-to-dynamic “Devil’s Ink.” Mischief & Mayhem may not fit the normal jazz mode, but its contrarian and playful outlook pretty much fits right in with the jazz way of free thinking – and playing.