After listening to Virginia Schenck's Interior Notions, I'm strongly tempted to place her in a vocal progjazz vein along with Annette Peacock, Lorraine Feather, and not a whole lot of others, as Schenck's work distinctively does not follow any truly prescribed path…yet feels immediately familiar, intimate, as though you've known it since birth. I think the largest element in that is its organic nature (Kevin Spears' kalimba is tremendously influential in this respect), but listen up: don't mistake the progressive aspect for progrock except in the widest possible sense. Jazz when it waxes progressive is usually fusion, but Notions is more in line with Lonnie Liston Smith's work, not so swirlingly atmospheric as his but definitely evocative of domains well away from the madnesses of metropolis.
I'll assume the uncredited synth in Poor Wayfaring Stranger comes from pianist Kevin Bales; if so, it's also reminiscent of Smith but by way of Beaver & Krause and Dick Hyman; very very nice as a complementary intrusion of the cosmic into the terrene. By the way, though I've loved the song itself since the first day I heard it back in the 70s (on a Serfs LP, if memory serves), I didn't even recognize the composition, so much did Schenck make it her own in permutation, until some of the lyrics suddenly spurred my memory. And wait 'til you hear what she does with the 16 minute version of Nature Boy. Man o man! It almost made it as my fave track, save that Wayfaring Stranger is just too cool and copped the honor. Interior Notions, a smoothbop improvisation, would be the real second choice (sorry Nature Boy, I can't help myself, I'm a crit). It's enticing as hell, with Schenck floating almost melismatically and Spears going to town on the thumb piano.
Wait a minute! Can ya amp up on a kalimba? Oh hell yes!, and Mr. Spears is the proof, in fact considered to be one of the world's best on the exotic instrument. But, overall, Schenck's work is gentle, groovin', and enticing in a manner rarely encountered any more…or in decades previous actually. She claims to have decided one day to have looked back at her past work, seeing it in a much deeper manner, and thus changed direction significantly. I wouldn't disagree for a microsecond, as it's ferociously obvious—yes, even within these mellifluous contexts—that no one could possibly have achieved what she has without having first had a long familiarity with each and every cut and with what's possible within every artist…if they'd only contemplate their true parameters.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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