32 Concerts in 32 Days: Day 21
It’s funny how the corporate media typically praises violinists for their “clear, pure tone,” or words to that effect. But consider: if you play the violin and you can’t hold a note for at least a few seconds, maybe you should switch to sax or drums. Last night at Barbes Jenny Scheinman played with a lovely tone, and one that sometimes wasn’t so lovely, depending on the emotion she wanted to evoke. She’s sort of the Chet Atkins of the violin, completely at home both in country music and jazz. She also plays klezmer and indie classical and bluegrass, and elements of those styles and others also poked their heads out throughout her characteristically imaginative, eclectic set of originals and a cover or two.
She started out solo. The audience kept the tempo, stomping their feet through one hypnotic but bracing one-chord romp, sounding like a traditional piece from right where Irish reels were morphing into Appalachian music. Was it a classic, an original or was she just jamming? Either way, it was a lot of fun, as were a couple of more pensive, rustic solo country pieces. Joined by an excellent, versatile guitarist along with Doug Wieselman on bass clarinet (who also played guitar later), she then swung through a Django Reinhardt tune, Wieselman adding his signature wit and giving it a bouncy bossa pulse. The guitarist kicked off the next tune with a spaciously reverberating, David Lynch-style noir intro straight out of the Bill Frisell songbook (Frisell being a frequent Scheinman collaborator, it could well have been a Frisell composition). Scheinman’s originals ranged from a song that actually managed to make compelling music out of a generic two-chord indie rock vamp, a couple of hypnotic yet bracing, springlike numbers that were equal parts North Carolina woods and Harlem, and a deliciously unpredictable piece whose fast, shifting chords echoed the Arthur Lee classic 7 and 7 Is.
Just getting into the back room to see her was something of an accomplishment. Scheinman typically sells out much larger venues, including the Village Vanguard, where she’ll be for a week starting December 6 with Frisell and Brian Blade, so if you want to see her here, you need to show up early.