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Music Review: Jenny Scheinman – Crossing the Field

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When it comes to Jenny Scheinman, it makes little sense to try to peg the talented composer, violinist, and singer into a genre corner. Releasing not one but two upcoming recordings, schedulde for simultaneous release on May 27, Scheinman is likely at her very best. Crossing the Field is one of the two, with the other being her anticipated vocal debut, Jenny Scheinman.

Crossing the Field is Scheinman’s fifth instrumental release. Featuring long-time collaborator and Grammy-winning guitarist Bill Frisell, jazz-piano great Jason Moran, and a string orchestra led by founding members of Brooklyn Rider, Scheinman’s Crossing the Field is a complex tapestry of sound and colour.

Scheinman grew up in northern California in a town of 300 people in a home with no electricity or phone. She travelled by horse and was taught to make use of everything and anything she could find. This ingenuity has given way to a similar form of creativity in her music. Her compositions use all of the parts of the music, giving rise to unique sounds and powerful melodies that are epic and strong.

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With Crossing the Field, the resourcefulness is apparent from the opening track and flows through the rest of the very exciting album. The majority of the record features a string orchestra and a jazz septet. Each tune is generally punctuated by multiple soloists. All but one of the tracks are original compositions, with the only cover being Duke Ellington’s “Awful Sad.”

Songs unfold like cinema on Crossing the Field, with tones and depth that belong on the big screen. Her cinematic flare is apparent on tunes like “The Careeners,” which could easily mirror a spaghetti western-style chase through the mountains. Its follow-up, “Three Bits and a Horse,” closes the narrative delightfully.

Other songs have a funky swagger to them, like the longest and most ambitious track on the record, “Hard Sole Shoe.” With one of the most addictive grooves I’ve heard in a long time, “Hard Sole Shoe” is a toe-tapping delight of a tune. The piano lines of Jason Moran build over the groove and we almost fear for his life under the wave of orchestral hits.

Some songs slow down and provide an almost rustic tone. The beautiful “Ana Eco” is a perfect example of this, as the strings are highlighted beautifully and the melody is irresistibly sweet. One can almost envision riding over the hill towards a lush, green cottage during the tune’s opening notes. Scheinman’s ability to capture the visual aspects of music and tone are evident throughout her lovely composition.

There’s even an African dance groove present on “Song for Sidiki,” a tune that works delightfully as the rising action in the song gives way to a bebop inspired finale. “Ripples in the Aquifer” give the strings their own solo show and the live track “Einsamaller” is a nice touch.

Crossing the Field is a delightful work that has a very apparent visual style. It’s no wonder, too, as Scheinman typically uses a visual image to serve as a muse for her recordings. Her image for this recording suits it perfectly. “The image for Crossing the Field came to me during the first day of recording. It was a vision of a group of people, young and old, traversing a wide open meadow in a unison of movement.” Lucky for us, Jenny Scheinman has taken us along on her visual journey.

Jenny Scheinman’s Crossing the Field is available on May 27th from KOCH Records.

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