Neil Pearlman

Neil Pearlman
Coffee & the Mojo Hat
Paddledoo Music

Click to hear: “The Laundry Set

Coffee & The Mojo Hat is tough to classify, as evidenced by the album’s text-heavy cover, which identifies the contents as “Traditional Scottish tunes with Latin, Funk and Jazz influences.” There is no singular sound going on. In fact, if it weren’t for Neil Pearlman’s incessant keyboard-tinkling, I’d think it was a compilation.

Many of the tracks resemble incidental music from the Gilmore Girls soundtrack. When the compositions break out of the noodling piano rolls, the music gets as daring as Panera bread. It’s jazzy, and there are some Latin accents, but funky it ain’t.

“Farewell,” which features flautist Nicole Rabata, starts out sounding like the canned music played on pan flute by Peruvian buskers at the mall, then segues into a jarring piano romp reminiscent of the Super Mario Bros. soundtrack. “The Laundry Set” starts to cook, but makes for a clunky musical stew.

Pearlman is a skilled player. He says in the liner notes that he grew up in the Scottish musical tradition (his father is fiddler Ed Pearlman, who also makes a guest appearance). This explains how he can roll through these fast-paced melodies as if by rote.

But the fusion here often sounds forced; the transitions too abrupt. And someone really should have told Pearlman that his keyboard tone is too Nintendo. Sticking to the piano would have given this album some grittiness to counteract the smooth-jazz feel.

— Anders Nielsen

Neil Pearlman plays Sun., June 12, at One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland, at 7:30 p.m. Tix: $12-$15 (all ages). 761-1757. For more on Pearlman, visit