This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block. Jenny Scheinman is one of the most in-demand violinists in New York. She's backed up everyone from Aretha Franklin to Norah Jones. She's also released close to 10 albums of her own - instrumental jazz. On her latest CD, Scheinman trades her violin for a different instrument: her voice. Jon Kalish reports.

JON KALISH: Jenny Scheinman estimates that she's played more than 200 studio sessions and club dates in the last year.

Ms. JENNY SCHEINMAN (Violinist, Composer/Arranger, Singer): The schedule of it is hard, the actual real-life trying to figure out how to do all of it.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SCHEINMAN: At this point, I'm lucky enough to love everybody that I play with. I'm not really doing so many gigs for the money anymore, which is really lucky.

KALISH: It's not just luck, says producer Hal Willner.

Mr. HAL WILLNER (Music Producer): She just is one of those people that can do anything. She'll play with anybody, and her solos are, of course, beautiful. She's an absolute chameleon to fit into a situation, yet be herself.

(Soundbite of music)

KALISH: Willner has used Scheinman many times, including on the 2004 Grammy Award-winning album "Unspeakable" by guitarist Bill Frisell.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SCHEINMAN: Everybody that I've spent a lot of time with ends up influencing me in some way. Bill Frisell, for example, I've really played a lot with him over the last decade and have been able to study his music through playing it - which is the very best way to study anything - and see how he reacts to different players, see how he adapts to different situations, see how he leads his band. I'm loyal to people I've been working with a long time because in some ways, I learn more.

(Soundbite of music)

KALISH: Scheinman has made a number of acclaimed recordings of her own, in addition to the side work. One of her fans is George Robinson, a music critic for Jewish Week newspaper in New York.

Mr. GEORGE ROBINSON (Music Critic, Jewish Week): She's got classical technique, but she's got a terrific sense of swing and a good improviser's sense of structure. She's learned a valuable lesson that I wish more improvisers would learn, which is say what you have to say and get off instead of, I've got a solo now. I'm going to play everything I know.

(Soundbite of music)

KALISH: Jenny Scheinman just finished work on a new instrumental album that's available as a digital download and on vinyl now, and it comes out on CD in the fall. She did all of the arranging for a large string ensemble, and that's another talent for which she's becoming known. Producer Hal Willner has used Scheinman to arrange songs for Bono and Lucinda Williams, and Willner suggested Scheinman to Lou Reed when the rocker needed string arrangements for a song called "Power of the Heart."

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LOU REED (Singer, Songwriter): Right off the bat, she started playing things on keyboard, and I said, that's a great keyboard part. She said, well, it's actually a string part - will be a string part.

(Soundbite of music)

(Singing) Everybody says, love makes the world go around. I hear a bubble, I hear the sound of my heart beating then I turn around and find you standing at the door.

The arranging and the playing keys into the emotion of a song in a way that I haven't heard very often. It's one of the best experiences I've ever had working with an arranger.

KALISH: Working with singers has been a big part of Jenny Scheinman's career. In fact, songs have always been in her head. Her parents were folk musicians, and Scheinman has been singing since she was a kid.

Ms. SCHEINMAN: I love singing. I love words. I love writing songs. I love puzzling over the lyric, over the end of a line. You know, a song teaches you so much, and I'm learning so much more about melodies - even playing. You know, singing has taught me how to play melodies more.

KALISH: But for her new recording, Scheinman has chosen to focus on singing and put the violin in the backseat.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SCHEINMAN: (Singing) Where is my mother's sister? Did she climb in the back of a blue El Camino? Was she really out looking for a ride? Why'd she decide not to warn us? Her keys and her passport left on the table, all her belongings inside.

KALISH: Jenny Scheinman's foray into vocal music will likely benefit her musical voice, says critic George Robinson. And he says he'll listen to anything Scheinman records, but he's not crazy about her vocal debut.

Mr. ROBINSON: When the Stones first started playing and they were basically doing blues and R&B tunes, Jagger said, I don't know why anybody would buy one of our records if they could get Slim Harpo's. And I'm not as enthused about "Jenny Scheinman," which is the title of the album that's basically her alt-country move. If I can listen to Gillian Welch, it renders somebody doing a similar thing slightly superfluous.

KALISH: But Jenny Scheinman's fan base seems to dig the singing. At Barbes, a small performance space in Brooklyn where Scheinman has been a fixture for several years, a recent singing gig was standing-room only.

Ms. SCHEINMAN: They want me to play more in my singing show. And I've been puzzling over that. After singing a melody, I often don't want to hear a violin solo. Playing the violin feels like singing. It feels like it's just me all over everything.

KALISH: Scheinman plans to make another vocal recording. And while she wants to spend more time leading her own bands, most of her work still comes as a session player.

Ms. SCHEINMAN: Mostly, I'm still just responding to the phone. You know, people call, and if I can do it and it sounds fun, I'll do it.

KALISH: For NPR News, I'm Jon Kalish in New York.

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