Jenny Scheinman’s Mischief & Mayhem turned in a provocative set last night at the Village Vanguard. The dreamy passages were mixed with gnarled spikes of sound provided by guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Jim Black. Bassist Todd Sickafoose (who needed to be brought forward in the mix) was a second percussionist as well, insightfully flecking the pieces with stabs of propulsion. It all went by in a whirl, but three memorable moments are listed below. One that almost made it: Cline morphing into the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Jerry Goodman on “The Mite.” I believe the above clip (NOT from last night’s show) features that as well. The band plays at the famed New York club through Sunday night. Team Jackson has the stream of the performance for you right here. During the action critic Peter Hum hit the NPR comment field to deem this stuff “some of the least ‘Vanguard-y’ I’ve ever heard at the Vanguard.” Not untrue at all. But trad jazz fans will want to note Scheinman’s quoting of “Four” at the start of the pentultimate tune, a carnival mirror piece of swinging freebop that had toes tapping old-school style.
1. Opening Out
Sure, there have been moments of dissonance and abstraction at the Vanguard. But methinks few of them came in the first two minutes of the performances. The violinist and her team said hello to their West Village live audience and NPR global listenership with some splashy, dreamy, blippy, skronky salutation speak, with Cline creating some wonderful wobble and Black sending smoke signals to Steve McCall.
Scheinman’s “A Ride With Polly Jean” doesn’t parallel the raw sturm und drang that Ms. Harvey and her band has become known for, but instead offers a breezy groove. It’s a soundtrack to an effervescent conversation, and you can see the pair in your mind’s eye as the rhythm section pulses and the violinist draws out a few long tones: the ladies flying down the Coast Highway in a 55 Mercury convertible, the British rocker querying her mate about the poise of her “American Dipper” and the Brooklyn jazzer asking about the eruptions of Harvey’s “Kamikaze.”
3. Forward Motian
During the introduction of “Blues For the Double Vee” (written for the Vanguard), Scheinman mentioned that Paul Motian’s updates of Monk were also an inspiration for the piece. From behind his trap set, drummer Black launched into a power crunch version of a surf beat, and laughed a bit while yelling to no one, “Just like Paul!” The piece is a jagged rocker that sounds like the Ordinaires taking a stab a Bernard Hermann tune, so Black was waxing ironic. He was also waxing manic. His drum work – pummeling here, caressing there – was one the set’s consistent highlights.
You can get a download of a song here.
Scheinman talks about “The Mite” here.
There aren’t a hell of a lot of elder statesmen who still bring bop’s intrinsic bustle to the piano, but the 80-year-old Barry Harris enjoys the music’s physical aspects. Don’t need to tell you he’s also a harmonic whiz, do I? The maestro recently told me that there aren’t a lot of improvisers out there playing true bop. “You might hear patterns that are close, but you won’t hear triplets, which you need. People are forgetting how to play it.” Harris helped refine the bop language, and this week at the Village Vanguard he’s sure to throw some triplets into the mix. He’s supporting the new Live At Rennes. Thanks to NPR, you can hear one of his sets live at the famed jazz cellar this evening.
Josh Jackson has a sweet interview with Harris at the Checkout. Listen to him throw a fugue on Bird at the start of the show.
Here’s Harris chatting it up with Leonard Lopate.