High strung

for The Brooklyn Paper
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It isn’t often that you hear a musician say she wants to play for less of an audience. But for violinist and composer Jenny Scheinman, playing a small stage is better than selling out an opera house.

“I’d always rather play smaller shows,” Scheinman told GO Brooklyn. Not that she doesn’t have options. On Aug. 2, Scheinman will make a rare big stage appearance, joining Wilco’s Nels Cline at “Celebrate Brooklyn!” The group doesn’t have an official name, Scheinman said, but refers to itself as “Mischief and Mayhem” — quite a stretch for a classical musician.

Scheinman isn’t an ordinary classicist though. After graduating from University of California at Berkeley with honors in English in 1995, she relocated to Brooklyn (she now lives in Carroll Gardens) and began a curriculum of her own.

“I came here to listen to a lot of the music live that I had listened to on albums,” she said. “It was like graduate school for jazz.”

Scheinman became a staple of the jazz bar scene and along the way, picked up a weekly gig at Park Slope’s Barbes, where owner Olivier Conan “lets me do what I want.”

Conan is all too happy to oblige.

“She’s a wonderful violinist who doesn’t sound like anyone else,” he said. “She keeps bringing something different each week, and we’re really lucky to get to see her grow as a talent.”

With the weekly exposure of her Barbes gig and performances at venues like the Brooklyn Museum, Zebulon and Union Hall, Scheinman achieved the musical discourse she was looking for. She’s worked with the likes of 2005 Grammy winner Bill Frisell, pop princess Norah Jones and acclaimed pianist Myra Melford.

In addition to going on tour with the “Mischief and Mayhem” project, Scheinman is working on two new albums for release next year. One will be all instrumental, featuring a seven-piece jazz group and an orchestra, while the other will be Scheinman’s first vocal recording, an effort she blames on Jones.

“She has been really supportive and a good friend. She has really pushed me into singing,” said Scheinman. The album, which she is recording now, will feature original compositions, obscure country folk songs and covers — yet Scheinman said this foray “doesn’t seem more challenging [then an instrumental album].”

“It’s just a little more new,” she said. “I’ve been singing all my life but not in front of people. It’s fascinating to mix lyrics and words and say something specific to people instead of painting obscure pictures.”

Jenny Scheinman and “Mischief and Mayhem” will play at 8 pm on Aug. 2 at “Celebrate Brooklyn” (in the Prospect Park Bandshell. Enter the park at Prospect Park West and Ninth Street). Admission is free. For information, visit www.celebratebrookly....

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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