FIVE FIRSTS: Neil Pearlman of Alba’s Edge

Neil Pearlman
Neil Pearlman

NAME: Neil Pearlman

1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … My father ran a CD distribution business for primarily Scottish music until I was about 14 years old, so there was never a shortage of high quality Celtic albums in the house. In addition, since my family really valued recorded music, I was given a lot of albums as gifts from other genres I enjoyed, like jazz. I didn’t really have any thought or desire to buy an album with own money until I was in my teens. Probably the first album I bought myself was either an album of one of my favorite faculty members from the Maine Jazz Camp (100 Dreams Ago by Ben Waltzer is a great one) or else the Live at Budokan triple-CD set by prog-metal band Dream Theater. I went through quite a phase of listening to them in high school, for better or worse!

2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … Similarly to the album question, since my parents were in the performing arts (my father Ed Pearlman is a Scottish fiddler, and my mother Laura Scott is a Scottish dancer), I grew up going to their concerts and seeing performances by many of the top international Celtic artists. The two earliest really big concerts I have a clear memory of are: a concert at the Celtic Colours festival in Cape Breton, which featured the Scottish supergroup Capercaille and also fiddler Ashley MacIsaac’s Celtic/rock group the Kitchen Devils and a concert of concerti grossi put on the Boston Baroque, which is directed by my uncle Martin Pearlman.

3. THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … When I was four years old, I had a few five-year-old friends who were starting piano lessons, and I was very dejected because I thought you had to be five to play the piano. My mom took that as a hint and started showing me some beginning piano melodies. It seems to have stuck! Although over the years I have dabbled in a lot of other instruments including mandolin, trombone and fiddle.

4. THE FIRST SONG THAT I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS … With my family being musicians it was only natural that my first public performance was with my dad’s fiddle group. They brought me out to accompany them on the piano playing a medley of traditional Scottish tunes at a concert they did at the Somerville Theater in Davis Square, Somerville, MA. I was 10 years old, and it was an exciting and scary experience!

5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … Outside of my family band I formed a jazz quartet called Indigo For Now in high school with a singer, bassist, drummer and me on piano. We had a regular gig at a local bookstore/coffee-shop in Portland, Maine called Casco Bay Books. It was a great experience to step out on my own, setting up the shows and rehearsing material with musicians my own age.

Neal Pearlman leads Alba’s Edge – a young multi-culti quartet that weaves together the expressive melodies of Scottish fiddle music with jazz improvisation and harmony, funky bass lines and the rhythms of Latin America – into Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs at 7pm on Sunday (January 11). Tickets are $16 in advance; $18 at the door.

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