Parlour Game (Royal Potato Family)

Jenny Scheinman & Allison Miller

Released August 2, 2019

Los Angeles Times Best Jazz Albums of 2019

AllMusic Favorite Jazz Albums 2019




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.

Track Listing:

1. Play Money (Jenny Scheinman) 05:12

2. 116th & Congress (Jenny Scheinman) 05:12

3. The Right Fit (Jenny Scheinman) 03:24

4. Michigan (Allison Miller/Jenny Scheinman) 05:21

5. Fake Weather (Jenny Scheinman) 05:19

6. Lead With Love (Jenny Scheinman) 04:39

7. Beans & Rice (Allison Miller) 04:28

8. Meanwhile (Jenny Scheinman) 00:46

9. Top Shelf (Allison Miller) 03:48

10. Miss Battle’s Cannonball (Jenny Scheinman) 05:07

11. Sleep Rider (Jenny Scheinman) 05:02


Jenny Scheinman: violin

Carmen Staaf: piano

Tony Scherr: bass

Allison Miller: drums

Recorded at Asyndetone Studio; Brooklyn Recording

Engineer: Andy Taub, John Wood

Mixing: Tony Scherr, Andy Taub

Mixing Assistant: Samuel Wahl

Mastering: Sarah Register

Mastering Assistant: Sascha von Oertzen

Photography: Shervin Lainez

Artwork: Grady McFerrin

Package Design: Gregory J. Del Deo


While violinist Jenny Scheinman has been a longtime contributor to drummer Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom band, Parlour Game marks the first co-billed outing between the two veteran players and bandleaders. The quartet featured here, which also includes pianist Carmen Staaf and bassist Tony Scherr, is a nimble troupe whose sparkling folk-jazz interplay and deep musical vocabulary make for an immediately pleasing listen. From the start, the band’s chemistry is apparent with concise arrangements that still retain a breezy, casual air. The bulk of Parlour Game’s compositions are credited to Scheinman, with two originating from Miller and the entrancing mid-album standout, “Michigan,” credited to both. The overall impression, however, is that of a collective gelling of minds and aesthetics. As a melodicist, Scheinman is in her element, dancing and weaving through earthy tones and lithe runs as Staaf paints the landscape, weaving her own powerful spells. With Miller and Scheer driving the bottom end, there is a nice mix of rhythmic variance, from the rigorous skittering of the city-flavored “116th & Congress” to the pensive pop bounce of “The Right Fit” and the robust complicated patterns of “Top Shelf.” The band languorously stretches out on a pair of dreamy delicate ballads in “Lead with Love” and “Sleep Rider,” turning the acreage of space between notes into a silent fifth member. At their most engaging, the quartet dazzles with more up-tempo pieces like “Play Money” and “Miss Battle’s Cannonball,” two playful cuts that show off all their combined assets: intricate but approachable melodies, effortless chops, and a shared communal language that promotes a sense of relaxed, joyful creativity.

Timothy Monger (AllMusic)