Jenny Scheinman: Mischief & Mayhem

Genre-hopping jazz violinist's new Nels Cline-enhanced ensemble is a little bit rock 'n' roll, all great.

Jenny Scheinman

Mischief & Mayhem

US Release: 2012-03-06
UK Release: Import
Label: Self-Released

Although most of her solo releases fit comfortably under the big tent of contemporary jazz, gifted violinist-composer Jenny Scheinman has never seemed particularly concerned with genre boundaries. When she isn't recording adventurous albums of originals, or collaborating with like-minded, free-thinking jazz artists like Bill Frisell, she keeps one foot in the world of rock, providing session and arranging work for high-profile artists as diverse as Lucinda Williams, Ani Difranco, and, yes, Lou Reed and Metallica. In 2008, she even released a self-titled album of folk originals and covers, on which she made her vocal debut.

You can't miss this musical open-mindedness on Mischief & Mayhem, certainly Scheinman's most playful album and among her best. The album title also serves as the name of her new ensemble of eclectic pros, including guitarist Nels Cline, drummer Jim Black, and bassist Todd Sickafoose. With Cline being the best reason to see Wilco live these days, Sickafoose playing bass for Difranco, and Black leading his own post-rock-leaning jazz outfit, AlasNoAxis, they and Scheinman all have an affinity for occasionally tearing it up, which clearly dictated the writing and selection of the material.

Yet it would be a stretch to call Mischief & Mayhem Scheinman's big rock move, just as it would be to call 2002's The Rabbi's Lover her big klezmer move. She demonstrates here once again that she's not much for squeezing everything from a form and subsequently discarding it. Rather, each album highlights a musical interest, while remaining informed by the others. Thus, this album features Scheinman at her most rockin', but also benefits from simply being her latest. We not only get the added value of Scheinman trading furious leads with Cline, but we can trace the flexible quartet feel back to Live at Yoshi's, the hints of jazzified Jewish traditionalism to The Rabbi's Lover and Shalagaster, and the strong melodic leads and the occasional feel of wide-open spaces to Crossing the Field.

On the other hand, if you're in this strictly to hear Scheinman, Cline, Black, and Sickafoose kick out the proverbial jams, you won't be disappointed. The title of "Blues for the Double Vee" is a Village Vanguard reference, and the track, itself, is grounded in Monk-inspired intervals, but it has just as much CBGB in its DNA. Black thrashes the song's steadfast groove into a furor, Cline switches between bluesy surf licks and dramatic power chords, and Scheinman makes like Thurston Moore with overdriven violin squeal. This bunch isn't averse to the slow build, either. "Devil's Ink" taunts with eerie guitar effects and cymbal rolls for most of its eight minutes before settling into nervous punk prog, as tuneful as it is twisty.

Given the considerable shredding power here, many of the highlights are strategically restrained, instead emphasizing Scheinman's ability to write and play leads that mimic the expressiveness of the human voice. The opener, "A Ride with Polly Jean", was inspired by Scheinman's fantasy of driving the California coast with PJ Harvey, but its beautifully languid, vaguely Middle Eastern melody is what sticks more than any overt similarity to Harvey even at her most serene. Two pretty, if slightly less distinctive, ballads, "The Audit" and "July Tenth in Three Four", are similarly built for complementing Scheinman's talents as melodicist. So is "Sand Dipper", an appealingly weird experiment that would practically sound at home on The Rabbi's Lover were the klezmer sound of the violin not against a background of atmospheric guitar swells and unpredictable bass slides.

Speaking of The Rabbi's Lover, the final track on Mischief & Mayhem is "The Mite", a composition originally written for the earlier project. It's hard to imagine this dynamically chugging piece, with its swooping leads and noise breakdowns, ever fitting in among that album's stately variations on Jewish trad music. But it's a great capper for Mischief & Mayhem, the album, and a promise of more great things to come from Mischief & Mayhem, the band.







'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.


JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.


​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.


Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times


Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.


How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.


Hip-Hop's Raashan Ahmad Talks About His Place in 'The Sun'

On his latest work,The Sun, rapper Raashan Ahmad brings his irrepressible charisma to this set of Afrobeat-influenced hip-hop.


Between the Buried and Me's Baby Pictures Star in 'The Silent Circus'

The Silent Circus shows Between the Buried and Me developing towards the progressive metal titans they would eventually become.


The Chad Taylor Trio Get Funky and Fiery on 'The Daily Biological'

A nimble jazz power trio of drums, tenor sax, and piano, the Chad Taylor Trio is free and fun, funky and fiery on The Daily Biological.


Vistas' 'Everything Changes in the End' Is Catchy and Fun Guitar Rock

Vistas' debut, Everything Changes in the End, features bright rock music that pulls influences from power-pop and indie rock.


In Amy Seimetz's 'She Dies Tomorrow', Death Is Neither Delusion Nor Denial

Amy Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow makes one wonder, is it possible for cinema to authentically convey a dream, or like death, is it something beyond our control?


Maestro Gamin and Aeks' Latest EP Delivers LA Hip-Hop Cool (premiere + interview)

MaestroAeks' Sapodigo is a collection of blunted hip-hop tunes, sometimes nudging a fulsome boom-bap and other times trading on laid-back, mellow grooves.


Soul Blues' Sugaray Rayford Delivers a "Homemade Disaster" (premiere + Q&A)

What was going to be a year of touring and building Sugaray Rayford's fanbase has turned into a year of staying home and reaching out to fans from his Arizona home.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.