A second jazz club with its own house label, Smalls Live, is the brainchild of Spike Wilner, club owner and pianist extraordinaire of Smalls, who every night produces one to three outstanding sets, including Christmas Eve, as I know from the xperience of being there the past few years.
Spike has gone beyond the production of CDs and MPs this year and is now live stremaing his shows for those who wish to subscribe but cannot always be there; and keeps an archive second to none of shows for the past few years that one can enjoy from home.
To date there are 31 productions availabel from Smalls Live, from the initial CD of Ryan Kisor to the most recent release this year of David Schnitter, Grant Stewart, and Tyler Mitchell.
I posted this past Friday (December 7th) about the Grant Stewart release, which I have been enjoying all weekend and expect to wear out in the near future, but that is only one of many that I own and love to listen and re-listen to. Smalls features straight-ahead jazz fror the most part, and these live performances can be electric, creating the ambience of sitting at this small cellar club surrounded by the music and appreciative audience. The sound balance on each has been great, which is hard to achieve sometimes in such small settings, the combinations often different and exciting, and the music first rate.
I have quite a collection of the 31 CDs, not quite all but at least half of them, and recommend all. Among those I consider special are as follows:
Grant Stewart, "Live at Smalls" I posted December 7th on this.
Jesse Davis Quintet,"Live at Smalls" with Ryan Kisor on trumpet, Spike Wilner on piano, Peter Washington on bass, and Billy Drumond on drums. You don't get much better than that quintet, which blows strong throughout the set.
Joel Frahm,"Live at Smalls", with Kurt Rosenwinkel on guitar, Joe Martin on bass, and Otis Brown III on drums. A chance to hear an under-appreciated sax player in a part blowing session, part ballad session, showing his prowess. Another guy who should not be under the jazz listener's radar.
Bruce Barth,"Live at Smalls", with Vincente Archer on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. More great piano work by Barth, not his only one this year but wonderful to hear him live on htis one.
Cyrille Aimee,"Live at Smalls" with Roy Hargrove, Joel Frahm, Spike Wilner, Philip Kuen, and Joseph Saylor as the band backing this marvellous jazz singer. I didn't know her so I am glad to have gotten to hear her on this disc. Now I need to see her live.
Ethan Iverson, Tootie Heath, and Ben Street, "Live at Smalls"a very special inter-generational trio that shows Iverson in a different light than his work with Bad Plus, and features outstanding support and solos by Heath and Street.
But again, picking these seven is like tryinig to do the 10 Best of 2012 list -- tomorrow I could drop any one of these to add maybe David Kikoski, Ian Hendrick-Smith, Kevin Hays, Peter Bernstein...and the list goes on.
Order these discs or downloads directly from the Smalls site and support the club in any way you can so the music will go on. It's great that places like Smalls or the Cellar in Vancouver are producing these CDs and MPs, or live streaming, but it is always best to hear the music in person.