Coffee and the Mojo Hat: Neil Pearlman
Which might sound like a real mix up, and it certainly could be. In Pearlman's hands, on his album Coffee and the Mojo Hat it works well, so well in fact that it is likely to appeal to listeners on all sides of that musical quadrilateral. Things that give Pearlman a head start in this area are that he plays piano, and that his piano style grounded in that of Cape Breton. That lively percussive, fluid sort of style, developed by musicians working with fiddlers in the migrant communities of far northern Nova Scotia, is both distinctly Scottish and distinctly its own, both sides of that allowing for a good bit of adventure and creativity. Pearlman also learned Scotish step dancing as a child “To really understand the Scottish music tradtion, you need to understand the dance tradtion,” he says.
Coming along with Pearlman on this journey are Doug Burns on bass, Javier Ramos on congas, and Alex Cohen on drums, so its is fairly percussive event to begin with. What’s interesting is that Pearlman’s choice of music, and his touch on piano, weave a lyrical line, a line which moves in and out and through the conga, bass, and drum lines. The fourteen tracks are for the most part sets of two or more tunes. There are two songs, one from the tradition and one from Robert Burns, with Elizabeth Burke and Maeve Gilchrist as guest voclaists..
Other composers Pearlman covers include Phil Cunningham, Michael McGoldrick, Gordon Duncan, and Jerry Holland. There is a helping of tunes from the tradition as well, along with two originals. Standout sets include Farewell, in which a tune by McGoldrick is paired with one from Martyn Bennett, and on which Nicola Rabata sits in on flutes, Sailor’s Wife, in which a tune from the tradition meets with one from Nathaniel Gow, and on which fiddler Alasdair Fraser adds a fine fiddle part, and Mill Mill O, on which Neil's father Ed takes a graceful guest slot on fiddle.
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