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Jenny Scheinman The Rabbi's Lover Review

Album. Released 2001.  

BBC Review

Violinist Jenny Scheinman takes time off from her work with John Zorn, Bill Frisell...

Bill Tilland 2002

Violinist Scheinman brings diverse talents and sensibilities to this recording. She has taken classical training at the prestigious Oberlin College conservatory, and draws a full, rich and very precise sound from her instrument.

She has both a personal and a scholarly interest in Jewish music and legend, and on this recording interprets traditional material and also composes within the tradition. But Scheinman has learned how to mix her musical metaphors, working with the eclectic West Coast group Charming Hostess, which combines Bulgarian choral music with Jewish klezmer (among other things), and she has also worked with jazz luminaries such as Bill Frisell, John Zorn and Cecil Taylor.

As a consequence, the music on this CD resonates throughout, but does not always follow expectations. Some pieces sound traditionally Jewish, some Spanish, some Middle Eastern and some even vaguely South American. Waltz rhythms are employed as well astangopatterns and even a touch of bolero.

Trumpeter Russ Johnson, who substitutes for the more typical klezmer clarinet, has the strongest jazz sensibility, and takes several compact but eloquent solos. Scheinman's own extemporizing sometimes occupies a middle ground between ornamentation and improvisation, although she improvises convincingly on "Seating of the Bride" and "Motherlap."

The theme of one piece, "Dance Party 1929," bears a striking resemblance to John Coltrane's "Ole," right down to Greg Cohen's plucked bass figures and Kenny Wollesen's sprung shuffle rhythms -- although at only 5 ½ minutes long, it clearly doesn't aspire to Coltrane's epic sweep. The group works well together, with no one striving for domination, and the trumpet and violin sometimes combine with Adam Levy's electric guitar to form what sounds like a very tight horn ensemble.

In spite of the diverse influences operating within this recording, perhaps the most impressive thing about it is that it is definitely "all of a piece," with no gratuitous virtuosity or pointed efforts to flout its eclecticism. In this sense, it is almost the inverse of klezmer, which usually comes across larger than life and often wears its heart on its sleeve. The Rabbi's Lover, on the other hand, has an understated, transparent quality, and is clearly not about to overwhelm anyone or dazzle with its fretwork. And more power to it for that; depth and soul are an acceptable tradeoff for flash any day of the week.

Like This? Try These:
Jeff Gauthier - Mask
David Krakauer - The Twelve Tribes
Bill Frisell - The Willies

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