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Smalls Is Dead, Long Live Smalls

The New York City jazz club Smalls, once famous for its late-night jam sessions, has gone the way of the-um-jazz club. Its doors shut for good last summer and I expect most of its regular patrons now visit Fat Cat, another New York club owned by Smalls’ former proprietor. Smalls may reopen, in the same location, in the spring. In the meantime (or if that doesn’t happen) you can visit Smalls on disc. A new label dedicated to documenting the music of the Smalls/Fat Cat scene has debuted with four CDs.

So far, Smalls Records’ most important release is We Love You by the late pianist Frank Hewitt (pictured). Hewitt was a fixture at the shuttered club, a veteran bebop pianist who performed there once or twice a week for nine years. This album of standards with bassist Ari Roland and drummers Jimmy Lovelace and Danny Rosenfeld was to be released with the title Get It? Got It. Good, but after Hewitt’s death in September, the founder of Smalls Records decided to make it the first in an ongoing series of historic Hewitt recordings.

The remaining three Smalls releases come from still-active performers with signature sounds. Melodic drummer Ari Hoenig leads a quartet on eight tunes (mostly Hoenig originals) on The Painter. Tenor saxophonist Ned Goold culled The Flows from 47 shows played on a national tour with bassist Ben Wolfe and drummer Ron Steen and put together a CD filled with 16 tracks of his inventive and unorthodox harmonies. And the quintet Across 7 Street, comprised of Roland, Rosenfeld, saxophonist Chris Byars, trombonist John Mosca and pianist Sacha Perry, showcase a dozen tunes by band members on Made in New York.

For more information on these releases, the label and the Smalls/Fat Cat scene, visit

Originally Published