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By Patrick Jarenwattananon
Composer and violinist Jenny Scheinman has a new band called Mischief and Mayhem. Perhaps the mischief part comes where hazy, dreamy grooves from the Heartland meet the experimental jazz quirks of Brooklyn. Certainly, it's a band capable of raucous and rocking mayhem, thanks in part to the presence of Nels Cline, the man Wilco hired to perform its guitar freakouts.
Whatever the etymology, Scheinman and the band are soon to embark on another week at the hallowed jazz hall known as the Village Vanguard. WBGO and NPR Music were there for a live radio broadcast and live video webcast on Wednesday, Aug. 17.
Nels Cline may be the "name" member of this group, but just as capable is the rest of the cast — both longtime Scheinman associates and unique bandleaders in their own right. Bassist Todd Sickafoose plays with Ani DiFranco and Andrew Bird when he isn't playing jazz gigs, sometimes with his own band Tiny Resistors (which features Scheinman). Drummer Jim Black performs with the best (and weirdest) of improvisers — Dave Douglas, Uri Caine and Tim Berne among others — and has cut five albums with his avant-rock improvising unit AlasNoAxis. As for Scheinman, she's simply one of the most versatile musicians working today; someone who composes and arranges frequently, tours as a country singer-songwriter and plays with Bill Frisell, Jason Moran and Norah Jones.
Scheinman grew up on the West Coast to parents who were folk musicians and encouraged her to study music, too. She found her way to the Bay Area jazz scene, where she played in Django-esque and experimental jazz bands alike. Then she moved to New York City, where she wears many hats. In fact, one of her home bases is at the Brooklyn venue Barbes, where she hosts a Tuesday-night residency with many different lineups.
She's also become a regular sight at the Village Vanguard. In fact, one of the earliest concerts in the WBGO and NPR Music "Live at the Village Vanguard" series celebrated her 2008 recording Crossing the Field. This set featured a completely different group and repertoire, drawing in part from Mischief and Mayhem's first album — due out in 2012.