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August 2008

Jenny Scheinman
Crossing the Field
E1 Music

If you prefer an album with a clear-cut identity, you might stumble a bit with this fifth instrumental outing from violinist/singer Jenny Scheinman. There’s a lot of shape-shifting going on here: string playing that resembles Mellotron effects, violin passages harnessing the sonic possibilities of the electric guitar, and ambient sounds mimicking the bustle of trains, rivers and racing feet, but awash in the high-gloss production values one tends to associate with New Age music.

Performing with Jason Moran and Bill Frisell and backed by a string orchestra, Scheinman has essentially set in motion one doozy of an argument: You can go from rockabilly to Claude Debussy and onwards to Bernard Herrmann-style film scoring in one track, if you’re of a mind. Particularly if you want to use a little Ellingtonian shuffle to help get from one style to the next, as with “Hard Sole Shoe,” a sly rock ’n’ roll tone poem, with Scheinman’s violin cutting quick riffs in the mix, before departing and leaving Moran’s piano to just about stand up and dance itself to death.

The numbers tend to rotate between ambient-folk-classical farragoes of an uptempo nature, and cuts that mimic nature itself, as though we’re touring the sward suggested by the title. In “Ripples in the Aquifer,” one legato line follows another, like converging water sources, such that the end of one tracery is virtually indistinguishable from the beginning of another. Subterranean ripples with above-ground cachet.

Originally published in August 2008
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