Dec 23, 2010
If you don’t live in the New York area, or are not hip to the jazz press, there is a chance you’ve never heard of Smalls, and the club’s entrepeneurial owner, Spike Wilner. If that’s you, then this podcast will be an eye-opener. If you already know that Smalls has become likely the most influentuial jazz club in America – if not the world – for the past ten years, then you’ll get some wonderful insight into what makes the club so great.
But Smalls is more than a jazz club – it’s a media brand. There is a literary arm that publishes poetry. Almost all performances at the club are streamed live on the internet to tens of thousands of listeners per month. Wilner has also posted an online archive of virtually every performance at Smalls, available through his website, www.smallsjazzclub.com. The list of talent is jaw-dropping.
Along with raising the profile of Smalls Jazz Club, the archive is rapidly becoming an important resource for the documentation of the modern jazz scene, which Wilner sees as an important outgrowth of the site and the label. “It’s a mission more than a business. We’re trying to preserve the music for as long as we can. I don’t know how long Smalls will last, but I want to make sure that when it does finally go, there is a legacy left behind for future historians.”
Smalls also has their own CD imprint label, and has released sixteen CDs under the Live at Smalls title. This podcast features selections from the five latest releases (all co-produced by Spike and Ben Rubin), plus a conversation with Spike. Click here to listen to that talk, and music from:
Jimmy Greene Quartet – “Bloomfield” from Live at Smalls. I had to pick the track named after Jimmy’s hometown, the place where my Grea-Aunlce Marty lived for most of his adult life. The band is charging along with the tenor sax star as the CD wraps up, led by Xavier Davis on piano, Ugonna Okegwo on bass and Greg Hutchinson on drums.
Omar Avital Quintet – “Theme for a Brighter Future” from Live at Smalls. Avital’s encouragingly titled tune kicks off this set, with two heavies on horns – fellow Israeli Avishai Cohen on trumpet and Joel Frahm on tenor sax. Jason Lindner on piano and Johnathan Blake on drums join Omar on bass to make a rock-solid rhythmn section.
Spike Wilner – “Bodhisattva Blues” from Solo Piano – Live at Smalls.Besides all the other things Spike does at Smalls, he also finds time to write music and play piano. Here he wraps up a set that is nothing short of the history of jazz piano with his own number.
Ari Hoenig – “Dark News” from Punkbop - Live at Smalls. The drummer plays with a quintet on his own composition, aided by Will Vinson on alto sax, Jonathan Kriesberg on guitar, Tigan Hamasyan on piano and Danton Boller on bass. Recorded on February 8, 2010 a the Smalls Jazz Club.
Ben Wolfe Quintet – “I’ll Know You More” from Live at Smalls. Greg Hutchinson is back on drums in this band, joining Wolfe (bass) and Luis Perdomo (piano) as the rhythm section. Marcus Strickland plays tenor and Ryan Kisor is on trumpet.