Skip to main content

CD Release: Neil Pearlman's Latin/Scottish Blend on Coffee and the Mojo Hat

From a media release:

The Stealth Clave:
Roots Pianist Neil Pearlman Wakes Up the
Latin and Funk in Traditional Scottish Tunes on Coffee and the Mojo Hat

 "There's a clave hidden in Scottish music, if you look for it," explains piano player, arranger, and composer Neil Pearlman. It's a secret place where Robert Burns does the boogie woogie. And where salsa brass and Tower of Power bass sneak into the frenetic triplets of island dances.

Pearlman has found this sweet spot. The young, unbound musician unleashes Scotland's unexpected grooves and Cape Breton's unique piano style on Coffee and the Mojo Hat (Paddledoo Music; June 5, 2011). Doffing his plaid cap for "mojo," Pearlman gently but firmly expands on tradition, honing high-precision technique and finding uncharted rhythmic affinities.

The possibilities of the piano-Pearlman's chosen instrument since he was four-were limited by what Pearlman humorously calls "the boom-chuck" style of most accompaniment for traditional tunes. But not on Cape Breton, Canada's Celtic roots hotspot, with its thriving music scene and a piano style all its own.

Inspired by stride and boogie woogie, Cape Breton piano players held their own with the region's acclaimed fiddlers at community dances. They broke out the broken octaves, freeing the right hand to hit all the burls-the traditional, fast-paced triplets-that make Scottish tunes sparkle. Pearlman fell in love with the approach, which he taught himself in his early teens by watching Cape Breton performers.

"The base of Cape Breton piano is the left hand, which was heavily influenced by boogie woogie and keeps a constant pulse," Pearlman says. "It condenses the usual two-handed back-and-forth and opens up right hand to do syncopations. It's a totally different world from the basic piano style you often hear in a contra dance or other fiddle music tradition."

He comes by his sixth sense for rhythmic subtlety honestly. Neil grew up hanging out at his fiddler father Ed's lively sessions and ceilidhs, hearing master players from Scotland and Cape Breton. At concerts and festivals Ed organized as the long-time head of the Boston Scottish Fiddle Club, young Neil would sit enthralled. He soon began playing along.

As an accompanist and as a member of Highland Soles, the Pearlman family band, Neil has been moving to and making Scottish music professionally for more than a decade. A step dancer from toddlerhood, Pearlman learned the complex footwork that accompanies Scottish tunes from his dancer mother. He danced as part of Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster's touring group at the tender age of 11.

"On a very basic level, this music is dance music, just like jazz, funk, and lots of Latin genres," notes Pearlman. "To really understand the Scottish music tradition, you need to understand the dance tradition. You know where strong points in melodies fall if you're dancing. That's a point you jump or land. Especially in some of the more stylistically complex tunes, the dance phrasing is crucial to music phrasing."

Check out some of the songs here

This phrasing is vital in traditional strathspeys, powerful dance tunes unique to Scotland. Whether composing his own ("Alison House") or taking on tradition ("Highlanders"), Pearlman found the strathspey delightfully complex to arrange for piano without losing its distinctive feel. "Although in a strong 4/4 time signature, there is a subtle undercurrent of triplets, which is a difficult thing to work with if you don't want to lose the sharp drive," explains Pearlman, "but if it is approached right, you can  accentuate, rather than detract from the strathspey feel."

Triplets are not the only undercurrent in Pearlman's music. There's a quiet pressure of Pearlman's other musical fascinations: Latin music (he played trombone in a Cuban band); funk of the likes of Tower of Power and Earth, Wind, & Fire; and jazz. Though Pearlman knows traditional ballads ("Monymusk Lads"), airs ("Mill Mill O"), and Robert Burns songs ("Afton Water") like the back of his hand, he hears them with brass parts and bass lines.

"Even when I'm not performing in a band setting, I don't play totally traditionally," Pearlman states. "I've been bringing in all these influences anyway, for years. In fact, I put this project together so I could flesh out these other possibilities with other musicians who could play them."

Along with conga player Javier Ramos (who first helped Pearlman feel Scottish music's stealth clave), Pearlman works with drummer Alex Cohen, who has precise chops honed by years playing heavy metal and jazz, and bassist Doug Berns, who gets seriously funky on tracks like "Butterfly." Pearlman has also brought in his father, fiddler Ed Pearlman, whose poignant playing graces "Mill Mill O," renowned fiddler Alasdair Fraser, and guest vocalists who navigate the edge of tradition and jazz with a beautiful lightness.

The natural, playful way seemingly divergent sounds unite means Pearlman's pieces keep to their original spirit: the Scottish vibe, and the dancefloor joy. "I want people to take it intellectually, but sometimes if you start talking about melding styles or about fusion, people start thinking too hard," Pearlman states. "It should be about the groove, about enjoying what you're hearing."

Neil Pearlman, Coffee & the Mojo Hat (Paddledoo Music):

June 5, 2011
Caffe Vivaldi - 32 Jones St. New York, NY
Show: 7:15 pm
Ph: 212.691.7538.

June 9, 2011
Club Passim - 47 Palmer St. Cambridge, MA
Tix: $12/$10, Show: 8 pm
Ph: 617.492.5300 Ticketing: 617.492.7679

June 12, 2011
One Longfellow Square
1 Longfellow Square Portland, ME
Tix: $12/$15, Doors Open: 7 pm, Show: 7:30 pm
Ph: 207.761.1757

June 29, 2011

Living Hope Community Church - 5301 Dewey Dr. Fair Oaks, CA         

Comments

What Else Is Hot This Week?

FACTORY presents World Premiere ACTS OF FAITH November 19 to 28 2020 - Free Livestream

 From a media release: World Premiere FACTORY presents  ACTS OF FAITH by David Yee Directed by Nina Lee Aquino Starring Natasha Mumba November 19 – 28, 2020 @ 7:30PM Streamed live for 6 performances Free of charge TORONTO (October 19, 2020) - To kick off its groundbreaking 2020/21 season, Factory presents the world premiere of acts of faith, by multi-award winning Asian Canadian playwright David Yee, directed by Nina Lee Aquino, and starring Natasha Mumba. Written specifically to be performed for a digital platform, acts of faith will stream live to audiences at home for six performances, November 19-28, 2020.  Thanks to the generous support of the TD Bank Group, admission is being offered entirely free of charge to audiences across the country and beyond. acts of faith tells a story about the power of faith, the inescapable persistence of our online identities, and the nature of truth in a digital age. The story follows Faith, a young woman who gets mistaken for a prophet. When a ques

Jewellery With A Conscience: Kind Karma

Jewellery With A Conscience: Kind Karma Check Out The Collection Kind Karma blends timeless jewellery with a social conscience. Founded in Toronto in 2017, the company makes classic jewellery pieces using a unique business model - the artisans who produce the handmade pieces are at-risk and homeless youth.  "I always wanted to be an entrepreneur," explains founder Laurinda Lee-Retter. "I wanted to give back." She combined her passions in Kind Karma. Laurinda serves as designer for the jewellery line, with pieces that are classic and minimalist, and that can be worn with anything. "I made jewellery as a hobby when I was young," she says.  The jewellery is then crafted by hand by the young artisans from sterling silver or gold fill, a durable construction that uses multiple layers of real gold over jeweller's brass. The result is much more resilient than gold plate. All the pieces are hypoallergenic, won't tarnish, and are designed to last for years

Fashionable Fabrics For A Cause: Vlisco Raises Over $500K For DRC's City Of Joy

From a media release: Vlisco Raises Over $500K To Help Female Survivors Of Violence In The DRC The donation will fund the building of a creative and textiles school in the City of Joy  Vlisco to relaunch collection targeting $1M in donations For more information or to buy click here November 2020 – Dutch wax textile fabric company, Vlisco, is donating a total of $512,000 (USD) to fund a new fashion school and production workshop in the City of Joy, a women’s transformational sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The announcement marks one year since the company launched a special collection honouring the “world’s strongest women,” symbolising their recovery from rape and trauma, and their journey from pain to power. City of Joy collection by Oritsegbubemi Ogisi - Photo by Atong Atem for Vlisco The original collection was showcased to a global audience by the women of the City of Joy at a gala event in Kinshasa on November 25th 2019. Five female, African fashion designers

Travel By The Glass: Seven Cocktails From Around The World

Travel By The Glass: Seven Cocktails From Around The World W e may not be able to travel, listen to live music or eat in restaurants, but we can always drink. Here's a look at some famous cocktails, and the stories surrounding their origins from all over the world. The Bloody Caesar (Calgary, Alberta Canada) The story goes that back in 1969, the Calgary Inn asked bartender Walter Chell to create a new cocktail to celebrate the opening of a new restaurant inside the hotel. Taking his inspiration from the restaurant's Italian cuisine, it took him fully three months to ocme up with the Caesar - as inspired by spaghetti alla vongole, which is essentially pasta with clam sauce.  Chell crushed clams for their juices, mixing it with tomato juice and spices. The classic version includes clam nectar - nowadays more often substituted by Clamato juice - Worcestershire sauce and celery salt. In an interview, Chell said he also added a dash of oregano. Image by Alexas_Fotos (Pixabay)  The M

Electric RnB: Tropic Return With New Single 'Down'

From a media release: Tropic Return With New Single "Down" “Down” is available to buy/stream now on all platforms R ising Brooklyn-based duo Tropic have made an impressive return with new single “Down”. Tropic, which is formed of electronic producer/DJ Phuse and R&B singer-songwriter Jo-B Sebastian, once again showcase the stunning lyricism and sensual vocals that have garnered support from industry tastemakers and helped them amass millions of streams across Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and more since their 2018 debut. Blending R&B textures, electronic landscapes, pop hooks and funk rhythms courtesy of Phuse's slick, luscious production and Jo-B's poetic lyrics and irresistible melodies, "Down" looks set to be another hit to add to the duo’s striking collection. It follows previous 2020 releases "Lights Out (Redux)", "Always Be My Baby", "Secret" and "Paradise". Speaking on “Down”, Tropic explained, "‘Do