I always regret mentioning, to media or friends and I guess now my own blog, upcoming or potential bookings. However, I saw Jenny Scheinman last week in Santa Cruz, as part of Allison Miller Boom Tic Boom at Kuumbwa, and she mentioned that the film for which she score, Finn Taylors’ “Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait”, which was shown at the Mill Valley Film Festival with live accompaniment by Jenny’s band, last month, might be touring out here next spring.
I dig that old timey faded colors look. Bill Frisell, a Jenny Scheinman influencer and peer, had something similar with Bill Morrison called “Disfarmer” unless I am confused. I definitely saw Jenny play with Bill at SF Moma in reaction to or for or near a set of Gerhard Richters.
I didn’t know Jenny then but her big sister Kate Scheinman was in my high school class at Gunn for a year or two. That means Jenny also attended PAUSD schools. (She did a clinic at Ohlone Elementary and at Castilleja that I set up, in 2004).
Finn Taylor is an SF-based filmmaker and all I think I know about him is that in a previous movie there was a plotpoint about a character searching for a Noe Venable record. (And Noe’s record was produced, in real life, by Todd Sickafoos who is on Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom Glitterwolf set, although last week at Santa Cruz the bass was played by Tony Scherr, meaning his hands moved across its strings quite deftly, not that he impersonated an anthropomorphic entity named “Bass”; in my weirdo version of Boom Tic Boom on the 18th in Palo Alto’s El Palo Room, itself named for an anthropomorhised or at least “christened” or named like Mark Twain in “Diary of Adam and Eve” a tree, Allison from her throne -!- mentored a 16-year-old bass student from Sacramento named Michael Gilbert.) mic drop
I think mic drop is my term for run-on sentence. One of my high school teachers, at Henry M. Gunn Senior High would draw little bells in the margin for what she called “ding-a-ling errors”
Jenny plays the Ivy Room in Albany, CA with Scott Amendola December 12 and 13.
coda (i usually say “and” or “and1” but this is a long lift, from Middlebury College)
Acclaimed composer, singer, and violinist Jenny Scheinman invites us into the captivating visual world of Depression-era filmmaker H. Lee Waters in the multi-media performance Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait on Saturday, March 4 at the Mahaney Center for the Arts. Seasoned with bluegrass, county, and roots notes, this performance will take audiences on a journey back nearly 100 years into America’s industrial past.
Scheinman and her musical sidemen, Robbie Fulks and Robbie Gjersoe, have created a live soundtrack of new folksongs, fiddle music, and field sounds to accompany Waters’s fascinating footage, now masterfully reworked by director Finn Taylor. The result is a reflection on “the gaze” both then and now; the evolution of mill towns; and a striking commentary on race, class, and the American experience. Audiences can stay after the performance for a Q&A with the artists.
“Scheinman [has] a distinctive vision of American music, suffused with plainspoken beauty and fortified all at once by country, gospel, and melting-pot folk, along with jazz and the blues”—New York Times.
Scheinman developed this performance in collaboration with Duke Performances. She writes, “H. Lee Waters was a journeyman portrait photographer in Lexington, North Carolina, whose business fell on hard times during the Great Depression. He came up with another plan to make a living: make regular people into movie stars! He got hold of a movie camera and travelled to towns throughout the Piedmont region. He would film as many people as possible in public places, then return several weeks later to show the footage in the towns’ movie theaters…between 1936 and 1942 he worked tirelessly to create 118 movies, compiling one of the most comprehensive documents that we have of American life at that time.”
Scheinman began work on the project in 2009, writing over three hours of music for the project, and eventually narrowing her material down to one hour to match film director Finn Taylor’s carefully curated editing. “These are America’s home movies. They contain a clue to our nature, an imprint of our ancestry. They were shot before Americans had sophisticated understanding of film, and capture truthfulness that one is hard-pressed to find in this day and age, now that we are immersed in a world of social media, video, and photography. These people can dance. Girls catapult each other off seesaws and teenage boys hang on each others’ arms. Toothless men play resonator guitars on street corners, and toddlers push strollers through empty fields. They remind us of our resilience, and of our immense capacity for joy even in the hardest of times.”
Jenny Scheinman is a violinist, fiddler, singer, and composer originally from Northern California who has worked extensively with Bill Frisell, Bruce Cockburn, Ani DiFranco, Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux, Nels Cline, Rodney Crowell, Myra Melford, Robbie Fulks, and Mark Ribot, and has also garnered numerous high-profile arranging credits with Lucinda Williams, Simone Dinnerstein & Tift Merritt, Bono, Lou Reed, and Sean Lennon. She has taken the #1 Rising Star Violinist title in the Downbeat Magazine Critics’ Poll and has been listed as one of their Top Ten Overall Violinists for over a decade.
Robbie Fulks is a country singer, writer, and musician who has released twelve records on major and independent labels. Radio appearances include: NPR’s Fresh Air, Mountain Stage, and World Cafe; PRI’s A Prairie Home Companion; and WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. TV credits include Austin City Limits, the Today Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Last Call With Carson Daly, and 30 Rock.
Robbie Gjersoe is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, songwriter, and occasional engineer and producer who has worked on a variety of musical projects wide-ranging in style and content for the last 30 years. He plays guitar, bottleneck slide, resonator, dobro, baritone ukulele, mandolin, nylon string, cavaquinho, viole, 12-string, lap steel, pedal steel, and bass.
Ok, my cold take on this is that I saw Jenny Scheinman with Robbie Fulks and Robbie Gjersoe in 2009 at Hoagland Center in Springfield, Illinois and at Martyr’s in Chicago in what I thought was more of a Robbie Fulks project than Jenny showcase.
In terms of the distinction between Jenny’s band and and this project, I remember thinking that Todd Sickafoos, Jenny Scheinman and Scott Amendola instead of showing up in each others bands as side-people should have shows that are more co-led and co-written and like MMW. Coinkydinky or not, Jenny says she is now managed by Liz Penta who does or did for many years manage Medeski Martin and Wood, especially when they played at Cubberley Community Center in 1996. Liz asked me that night about the curfew of Cubberley Theatre apropos of our “the Commitments” moment when the band played on in hopes that Dave Matthews down the street at HORDE would show up for an after-party. “The Commitments” or “Waiting for Godot”. And bad segue, for a plea to play for Jenny, that my mind jumps to Mitch Woods “Friends Along the Way” which features the real Van Morrison.