Monday, June 13, 2011

Coffee and the Mojo Hat: Neil Pearlman

It is a challenging line for musicians to walk: loving a tradition and then becoming deeply involved in another style, and wanting to hear them play off each other, to bring them together in new ways. Neil Pearlman brings this challenge off with flair and ingenuity. He’s grounded in Scottish tradition, and the other areas he brings in are Latin, funk, and jazz.

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 neil pearlman album coverallowing 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.

you may also wish to see.
Highlander's Farewell: Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas
Hanneke Cassel: For Reasons Unseen
Scotland & Cape Breton: tradition and innovation

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Anonymous Vera Marie Badertscher said...

Sounds like a really fascinating mixture. And jazz--my fav. I was disappointed that Amazon said it is temporarily out of stock and they don't have any sample tracks. How do they decide when they have samples and when they don't?

9:49 PM  
Anonymous Vera Marie Badertscher said...

Oh, never mind, I see that it is a CD and not available as MP3, thus no samples to hear. Too bad. I'd love to hear a bit.

9:51 PM  
Blogger kerry dexter said...

I believe, though I'm not sure, that whether or not samples are available at Amazon is up to the artist. this album has just been released on a small independent label, so the samples may just not have made it into Amazon yet.
meanwhile, though, you should be able to hear some of Neil's music here:

6:25 AM  
Anonymous MELANIE HAIKEN said...

I want to be sympathetic to musicians' eclectic influences, but often find these forays to be mashups that -- while clearly fun to play -- aren't that fun to listen to. But this sounds worth checking out, so I will!

6:41 PM  
Blogger kerry dexter said...

I know just what you mean. I often feel the same way, which is why I don't write about music that goes in that direction often. I think you might enjoy this one, though, especially if you like Cape Breton piano music.

6:07 AM  

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