Jenny Scheinman on Risk, Adventure and Starting a New Band with Allison Miller


For almost a decade, violinist Jenny Scheinman (right) and drummer Allison Miller have worked together in the latter’s Boom Tic Boom ensemble. Their new collaborative group is Parlour Game.

(Photo: Shervin Lainez)

Is that tied to discussions you and Allison have had about the jazz scene?

Allie’s like the star drummer in every all-women jazz band out there. ... I haven’t had the pleasure quite as much to be in predominantly female bands. I love that this band is tipped toward the female side. I can’t remember if this was a New York Times op-ed, [but] they were talking about the 116th Congress and how much is said by just being elected as a minority. In a band, you don’t have to make a point of talking about being in an all-women band or a women-led band, right? You’re just up there and merely your presence on the stage has an impact for good.

I’ve had a very lucky life and played with a lot of amazing musicians, and kind, gentle, wonderful, empathetic men, mostly. But it does get tedious to be in an all-male world.

Can we talk about one of those empathetic people, Bill Frisell?
He’s a kind and gentle person. He really is. Bill and I just had a connection immediately. We both really love songs and melodies. I get to play the melody very often, and we get to play the melody together. Playing unison with Bill is such a pleasure. He’s just constantly learning, and he’s so ... you could call it stubbornly curious about new ideas. And [for] things that don’t initially work, he just really goes after it. He’s been a model for bravery in art. One of the musicians I met [through him] who’s become one of my lifelong musical colleagues is Tony, the bass player in Parlour Game. There is a kind of a core community that [Frisell’s] been playing with for a very long time, and he’s built that through committing to those people that share a certain language—that is the “Bill language.”

Is there something unique about Parlour Game when compared to other work you’ve done?

I’ve had a lot of great performing experiences, and I’ve had the most killing side-person life ever ... . But the thing I feel like I haven’t been able to do is have a real band, like a touring band. I’ve made a lot of albums that I’m really proud of, but you can’t tour with the Wilco guitar player 60 days a year. Nor can you do it with Bill Frisell or Jason Moran—or these people that have played on my albums and made my music sound so beautiful. They’re not really practical [as] side-musicians in my touring band.

[It’s] not only that practical element, but [also] just the feeling of a band, the feeling where everybody’s committing to this thing over the side-person work they do. They’re not just signing on to it just because it fits in their little slot, but they’re somehow invested in it and it feels like family. That has been really, really rewarding. DB

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November 2021
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