Jenny Scheinman & Friends

Mark W. Adams

A thank you note to a Cryptogramophone wonder.

Jenny Scheinman & Friends

Jenny Scheinman & Friends

City: New York
Venue: The Living Room
Date: 2006-05-10

Dear Jenny, I'm writing to thank you for your show at the Living Room. I'm one of the folks who chatted with you briefly after the show. Let me apologize for being a little shy, a little scatterbrained, and more than a little blown away. See, you confounded my expectations. I expected a show more along the lines of your 1999 Live at Yoshi's recording -- something lyrical, gentle, and at the same time very intense. I expected those elements, maybe mixed with extended explorations of your more recent, more jazz-folkish, Tzadik releases. I was a little embarrassed that I hadn't bought your newest release, 12 Songs, prior to the show. You see, I'm a fan of yours, and thought I knew what to expect on that casual Wednesday night in the East Village. But I didn't expect what I saw -- you singing. Singing new songs and some old standards that I knew in my head, like "Trouble in Mind", "Remember the Goodtimes", and "Salty Dog". I didn't know you could sing. I've always heard an underpinning of folk music in your instrumental compositions, but this show's songs resonated in my head like some dashing hybridization of the genres I most love. My ears cling to jazz, especially the jazz violin, but I also love a driving fiddle, old-time music, and those traditional songs that shape (and have been shaped by) decades. When you tore into the Carter Family's "Single Girl, Married Girl" midway through the set, I heard an interpretation which dissolved the boundaries between a "violin" and a "fiddle." And I heard an old song that was fully in the now. I couldn't have predicted that such insanely great things could happen on a Wednesday night. Maybe I don't visit NYC often enough. Or perhaps the greatness emerged from your ensemble's casual elegance. Casual, like the way you invited your talented friend Carrie Rodriguez from the audience to sing harmony, and even handed her your violin to play, smack-dab in the middle of "Salty Dog." Elegant, like the way that you gave the band space to play for the first few songs, when I really wanted to hear you play more... but that's a wish made irrelevant by my respect for your respect for your bandmates. Overall, I was appreciative of the fact that you all played as if you were in your living room, an assemblage of friends making music for each other. I get the feeling that you do this often, and that I've missed many great performances. I'm also shocked that there were only 30-odd people in the audience, all keeping casual distance from the stage. Mid-show, I was wishing my friends were filling the empty chairs around me. Maybe I just wanted the Living Room to be full, to be witnessed by many, because I couldn't believe how well the sound fit together. I was distracted by the seeming impossibility of it -- drummer Jim White from the Dirty Three, casually leaning against the back wall, enjoying himself in this setting with wide-armed brushwork. I unfortunately missed the name of your keyboardist, who, though slouched over some swampy and stimulating solos, was no musical slouch. To your right was Tony Scherr, whom I know best from his bass work with Bill Frisell, here playing gritty, angular, and hyperkinetic guitar. He was singing, too -- trading leads and harmony with you throughout the show. Scherr offered an eyes-closed version of Gillian Welch's "Whiskey Girl" on a beautiful green 12-string electric guitar… that, you said, he built!? That song, his guitar and guitar work, the band's cohesion in service of these songs -- did I mention my awe? Though I missed Bill Frisell sitting in with you the prior Wednesday, there was honestly little color he could have added to this night's glowing performance. Introducing myself after the show, I couldn't help but first exclaim "man, you should record with these guys." So I was delighted when you replied "well, I am." Thankfully, maybe my friends will get to hear you and your friends, after all. I hadn't planned on writing to you, and hadn't planned on making public my appreciation. But I also hadn't planned on witnessing such a magical night of music. And for that, as I said in the beginning, I'm just writing to say thanks. Thanks for surprising me, as the best of artists do. Your fan,
Mark P.S. I really dig your brown polyester suit!

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.