‘Parlour Game’ at Arcata Playhouse

AT ARCATA PLAYHOUSE Jenny Scheinman and Allison Miller will give two performances next week at the Arcata Playhouse. Photo by Shervin Lainez

Arcata Playhouse

CREAMERY DISTRICT – The Redwood Jazz Alliance and the Arcata Playhouse have teamed up to present Jenny Scheinman and Allison Miller’s Parlour Game in a two-night stand at the Arcata Playhouse, Monday and Tuesday, Oct.  21 and 22.  

There are different ticket prices each night, as the Monday night show is presented by the Redwood Jazz Alliance and is part of the current RJA season, while the Tuesday night show is presented independently by the Arcata Playhouse. Both shows have an early start time of 7 p.m. 

 Parlour Game will also offer a free public workshop in Fulkerson Recital Hall at noon on Tuesday, Oct. 22, with support from the HSU Music Department and the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

 Scheinman and Miller have played locally multiple times with various bands, but this is their first visit with their new co-led band Parlour Game. 

Fresh off appearances at the Newport and Monterey Jazz Festivals, Parlour Game is driven by Scheinman’s compositions, with key contributions from Miller. Scheinman has always had irons in multiple musical fires, and one can hear elements of fiddle tunes, singer-songwriter pop, rock, and straight-ahead jazz in the music she’s written for this quartet. What helps unify all the disparate strains is a certain convivial spirit. 

“In the earlier part of my career I often explored dark things,” Scheinman said. “I would say artists tend to do that. It’s an easy access point to finding depth, gravity and weight. But humor and light and buoyancy don’t have to be cloying or sentimental. They have their own depth.”

 The conviviality extends to the makeup of the band. Parlour Game was born on tour when pianist Carmen Staaf and bassist Tony Scherr were subbing in Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom. There was an immediate chemistry. “Even the edgiest material swung,” said Miller, “and we realized that we had found something really special. It felt so good!” 

As for Scheinman and Miller: they first met in Brooklyn in the early 2000s. Scheinman had come from a rural background and was immersed in the downtown New York City music scene. 

Miller, whose musical origins were in Washington, DC swing, had a steady gig with organ legend Dr. Lonnie Smith. But their insatiable curiosity and general gregariousness brought them into a variety of genres. 

Scheinman formed an enduring connection with Bill Frisell and wrote and released nine albums featuring some of the most innovative jazz musicians of our time, including Jason Moran, Ron Miles and Nels Cline. She also dove headfirst into the world of folk, rock, and country, touring with a number of iconic North American artists such as Lucinda Williams, Rodney Crowell, Robbie Fulks and Bruce Cockburn. 

Meanwhile, Miller joined Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Toshi Reagon and did a long stint in Natalie Merchant’s band. She also worked with Ben Allison, Renee Rosnes, Brandi Carlile and Ani DiFranco and taught at the New School and the Stanford Jazz Workshop. More recently, she’s been the recurring special guest drummer on Late Night With Seth Meyers. 

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 Staaf and Scherr are also versed in numerous American genres, and they share a deep respect for roots music. Staaf has worked closely with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, and Scherr has played extensively with Bill Frisell, Sex Mob and Maria Schneider. Scherr once described Staaf as “totally unpredictable, and totally reliable.” Seated quietly at her piano, Staaf opens up a magnificent world of harmony while Scherr follows from below, grounding her most outrageous revelations.

  At the time of writing, a limited number of advance tickets to the Monday, Oct.21 show ($15 general admission, $10 students amd seniors) were still available at Wildberries, Wildwood Music, People’s Records, and The Works. Advance tickets to the Tuesday, Oct. 22 show ($20 general admission, $18 Playhouse members) may be purchased at Wildberries, Brown Paper Tickets, and the Arcata Playhouse.




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