Jenny Scheinman & Allison Miller’s Parlour Game
$ 11.98 – $ 18.98
1. Play Money
2. 116th & Congress
3. The Right Fit
5. Fake Weather
6. Lead With Love
7. Beans & Rice
9. Top Shelf
10. Miss Battle’s Cannonball
11. Sleep Rider
When two of the indie-jazz scene’s foremost instrumentalists unite for their debut co-writing collaboration that intermingles panoramic Americana-infused arrangements with a Brooklyn jazz pocket, the result is as ambitious as only violinist Jenny Scheinman and drummer Allison Miller could envision. Parlour Game, due out Aug. 2 on Royal Potato Family Records in advance of the quartet’s highly anticipated Newport Jazz Festival performance (Aug. 3), features a compositional sisterhood of two innovators redefining American music. Along with pianist Carmen Staaf and acoustic bassist Tony Scherr, Parlour Game prevails as a respite from the daily chaos of the modern world. This is social music that celebrates hopefulness, humor, and the art of the game. Collectively, the three leading women jazz artists and Scherr send out a calling card for listeners to take a deep breath, and wholeheartedly enter their sonic haven for a moment of joy and solace.
After nearly two decades of working side-by-side in their own projects as bandleaders as well as with a laundry list of lauded artists, Miller and Scheinman’s cosmic connectivity is akin to being of the same pedigree. At the core of Parlour Game is very much the music played amongst families in parlors. They are songs that bind, and are unapologetically beautiful. Parlour Game features 11 original compositions celebrating American musical traditions at a time when the country is on the brink of a revolution. Scheinman and Miller provide a special gathering place where all are welcome, a contemporary parlor where people can reflect and reenergize.
The venerable Chicago venue Green Mill – a favorite among touring artists in search of a riveting audience ready for bands to stretch out and try new material – provided the perfect backdrop for one of the quartet’s initial gigs. A return to the roots of swing that Miller, Staaf and Scherr grew up listening to and performing seamlessly amalgamated with the folk music Scheinman was immersed in growing up in rural Northern California. It set the foundation of Parlour Game, and a spellbinding new band was formed.
Parlour Game opens with a hospitable greeting that uplifts the spirit on “Play Money.” A simple reference to board games played amongst friends and family, the track sets the album’s jubilant pace. “116th & Congress” is a salute to the diversity of freshman in the country’s new Congress. A sum of all its parts, the stunning rhythmic interplay is undeniable with Scheinman’s entropic shimmer leading to Staaf’s commanding solo upon returning to the A section. “The Right Fit” is all about that sexy emotive mid-tempo groove that this rhythm section plays so well, and a melody that will stay with us long after the song has ended.
“Michigan,” co-written by Scheinman and Miller, represents a sense of urgency and forward motion, a cycle that could easily repeat for infinity. “Fake Weather,” a band favorite, is perhaps the most referential of hip-hop, combining a two measure 12-tone bass vamp with an almost-
blues melody, subtle studio effects, dropped snare beats, and improvised piano reharmonizations that blow over the whole thing with the indifference of a weather pattern.
“Lead With Love” is the love song on the album; compassionate and emblematic of flowers continuously opening. “Beans & Rice” honors Miller’s straight ahead swing upbringing and her admiration of Thelonious Monk. “Top Shelf” alludes to the ridiculousness of getting drunk from expensive liquor. A nod to Cannonball Adderley and Lyndsey Battle (who met several times, though only in dreams), the funk groove of “Miss Battle’s Cannonball” references Go-go music which influenced Miller as a young aspiring musician coming up in Washington DC.
The album’s closer “Sleep Rider” refers to Scheinman’s childhood horse rides home from school, during which, especially in the winter months, she routinely fell asleep. It is a flying dream with a steady pulse, and leaves us in a state of mystical reflection, suggesting that our imaginations make anything possible.
As for the game in the album’s title, each band member has equal input on how the songs manifest. With Miller and Scheinman at the helm of the compositional framework, Staaf and Scherr offer indelible feel to Parlour Game. Similar to parlor games, everyone contributes, even the audience at their live concerts. Community is the focal point of Parlour Game, and in times like these, it’s more vital than ever before.