In the liner notes to Pearl Street Garage #1 , actress and singer Mews Small gives special thanks to her "Grandma Lily for saving her old sheet music in her garage of treasures." Thanks to Grandma Lily, Small and the Small Band revive a treasure trove of songs from times long gone by. Most of the songs date from the 1920s, with two traditional songs and a Russian folk song dating from the 19th century, and one song, Charles Harris' "Hello Central, Give Me Heaven," dating from 1901. The only exception to the pre 1930 repertoire is a strongly gospel-tinged rendition of Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson's "Comin' In On a Wing and A Prayer," which dates from 1943.
Mews' style of singing is varied. For example, on "You've Got to See Mama Every Night" she sounds like a 1920s era red-hot mama. In sharp contrast, Mews sounds much like a straight-laced temperance crusader at a revival meeting on "Hello Central, Give Me Heaven" and the traditional "Abide With Me." A certain Eastern European exoticism is present in the Russian folk song "Dark Eyes," bringing to mind a sound that might have been found in an early 20th century European cabaret. As far as Mews' voice and style of singing, it is very much reminiscent of what might be heard on 78 rpm recordings dating from the 1920s. About the only thing missing that might contribute to the aesthetic of these older songs are the pops and crackles of an old record and the tinny lo-fi sound of a wind-up Victrola.
With an increasing interest in "roots music" of the American popular experience, Mews Small and the Small Band will very likely find a very receptive audience among those who love to mine the ore of songs perhaps lost in the attic of our collective memory. While Small's voice and singing style harken to the past, her performances and those of the Small band are not necessarily trying to function as a repertory ensemble. To this listener, there are too many inconsistencies in the style and sound of the backup band that would make such a claim credible.
This does not make the performances on Pearl Street Garage #1 any less credible. Mews Small and the Small Band are merely drawing upon particular repertory (and in some cases a little known or forgotten repertory) and performing modern arrangements (penned by nephew Phil Small) of these songs. In drawing from this repertory, they are updating these songs and providing a valuable asset for preserving the past. For fans of early 20th century American popular music or individuals discovering music of the "jazz age" for the first time, Pearl Street Garage #1 will be most welcome.
Track Listing: You've Got To See Mama Every Night, My Buddy, Yes Sir That's My Baby, I'm Always Chasing Rainbows, Hand Me Down My Walking Cane, I'll See You In My Dreams, Comin' In On A Wing And A Prayer, Hello Central Give Me Heaven, Dark Eyes, Abide With Me
Personnel: Mews Small (vocals), Phil Small (piano, backup vocals), Curtis Robinson Jr. (bass), Raymond Pitts (drums,clarinet), Jim Coffman (trombone, mandolin, violin, guitar), Laura Kass (violin), Mitta Wise (backup vocals), Steve Goodie (guitar)
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.