Jenny Scheinman admits she’s led a charmed life, as far as her music career goes. The violinist is unlike a number of contemporary jazz musicians in that she never studied music in college, choosing to major in English instead. Perhaps it’s because she already had a firm grasp on it, listening to her father’s jazz records as a young girl, improvising by age 12 and knowing in high school all she ever wanted to do was be in a band, playing jazz.
Her dream was realized soon enough as a prodigy breaking into the Bay Area’s acid-jazz scene, then moving to New York and joining guitarist Bill Frisell’s band during her early twenties, and eventually landing gigs with Jason Moran, Nels Cline and Norah Jones. She even crossed the jazz/rock divide to work with artists like Lucinda Williams. And for almost a decade, she’s been a part of Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom, forging a close bond with the drummer/bandleader.
Scheinman and Miller also now co-lead Parlour Game, a quartet with bassist Tony Scherr and the undeniably talented pianist Carmen Staaf. The ensemble’s self-titled debut on the Royal Potato Family imprint is a collection of whimsical melodies with infectious rhythmic underpinning throughout. It’s feel-good music by design, making it difficult for any listener to deny the eloquent and joyful collaborations.
DownBeat had an opportunity to chat with Scheinman by phone about moving to New York from California, the musicians who have shaped her musical life, her new album, finally having her own band and being on the road.