Violinist and composer Jenny Scheinman has done it again on Shalagaster, her sophomore effort for John Zorn's Tzadik label. With a quintet which includes pianist Myra Melford, drummer Kenny Wollesen, bassist Trevor Dunn, and trumpeter Ross Johnson, Scheinman wrote ten of the 11 tunes here, which range from klezmer-influenced classical music as it encounters jazz in the modern world -- "Wiseacre" -- to muted, loopy, tango bliss-outs ("Tango for Luna"), to the strange country-song-influenced and arcane "New View of the Horse," to the shimmering glissandi of jazz harmony and arrangement in "American Dipper." Melford's pianism adds depth and dimension to this set; she cavorts with Scheinman's compositions, yet never attempts to trademark them with her own notable style. She sings them with comps, fills, or direct harmonic confrontations. On "Nigun," Scheinman's violin creates the place of erased history as she drones through Melford's contrapuntal drone and melody that seems to come from the heart of Jewish antiquity. But this is not "out" music. It is warm, true sounding, and brilliant in its scope. The arrangements are lovely, even moving; and Ms. Scheinman's compositions carry within them the mystery, history, heartbreak, and humor of the American experience as lived through one at the margins of culture, race, ideology, style, and spirituality.
by Thom Jurek