How many UC Berkeley English majors are leading jazz-rock bands capable of attracting top talent and filling venerable jazz venues? Not many, we can only guess, but Jenny Scheinman is doing just that with Mischief & Mayhem, her genre-bending quartet that recently concluded a four-night, eight-show run at New York’s Jazz Standard.

Scheinman has been at it for more than two decades, collaborating with the likes of Bill Frisell, Lucinda Williams, Norah Jones and Lou Reed. One of her favorite musicians is guitarist Nels Cline, an accomplished jazz player known among rock fans for his work with Wilco. Joined by drummer Jim Black and bassist Todd Sickafoose, the foursome displayed individual virtuosity as well as impressive interplay across a wide range of Scheinman’s compositions.

For the early Saturday night show (1/20), the house was full, and the band started out slow and moody with “Amelia’s Room.” Scheinman is a native New Yorker who moved to California with her family while still a young girl, and some of her tunes carry a decidedly West Coast vibe. “With Sea Lions” was followed by “The Cape,” a surf rocker inspired by her father that allowed Cline to let loose with over-the-top Ventures-style guitar riffs. Recent compositions carry politically tinged titles such as “Fake Weather,” although Scheinman pointed out that “I’m With Her,” which the band played later in the set, was written before the phrase took on it current meaning. “Had I known,” she said, “I would have written an entirely different piece of music.”

Closing with the high-energy “Pent Up Polly” before returning for a “Blues for the Double Vee” encore, the band was hitting its stride. Scheinman and Cline are always impressive, but the rhythm section — particularly percussionist Black with a collection of chimes and shakers to add mood and texture — was equally outstanding. It might not have been outright madness, but there was definite sense of mischief in the air as the band graciously thanked an appreciative audience.

Pictures from the show are in the gallery above and you can check out Jenny's 2012 Mischief & Mayhem album, below.



photos by Lou Montesano

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