Brooklyn-based violinist/composer Jenny Scheinman has carved out a unique niche on the upper tier of the New York music scene: Her closest cohorts include both cutting-edge guitar icon Bill Frisell and pop-jazz diva Norah Jones, not to mention her sideman stints with the likes of Lucinda Williams and Lou Reed. At the same time, she’s continued to expand her own creative vision on a series of recordings as a leader. Following up 2005’s 12 Songs, the ambitious—and beautifully realized—Crossing the Field features mostly Scheinman’s own compositions, emboldened by a band of contemporary jazz stalwarts (Frisell, Jason Moran, Ron Miles, and Kenny Wollesen, among others) along with a chamber string orchestra.
Distilling a century’s worth of American music, Field balances the expansive and the intimate, the city and the country, high culture and low. Take the elegiac “Ana Eco,” which channels Aaron Copland’s romantic populism, or “The Careeners,” an off-kilter romp evoking a Sousa-on-speed parade, or the cinematic “I Heart Eye Patch,” which conjures up images of a headlong gallop across the widescreen expanse of some revisionist western, with Frisell as a hipster gunslinger back in town after two weeks on the trail and itching to blow off some steam. The album’s only cover, Ellington’s Jungle-era mood piece “Awful Sad”—a showpiece for Scheinman’s distinctive dark-hued violin—is infused with a ragtime-era urban swagger (and some patented Wollesen sideshow drumming). Other standouts include “Hard Sole Shoe,” a multi-sectioned piece anchored by Jason Moran’s insistent groove; “Old Brooklyn,” a sepia-toned ode to the City of Churches; and “Song for Sadiki,” whose African-based rhythms put a 21st-century world-music stamp on the record’s deeply rooted Americana.
Jenny Scheinman plays Joe’s Pub June 11, joespub.com