Small Change

Tom Waits

Asylum Records, 1976

REVIEW BY: Eric E5S16

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/11/2000

Tom Waits is a unique individual, and probably the best way to describe him and his music is best defined in ROLLING STONE Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll:

Singer/songwriter Tom Waits is a one-man Beatnik revival. He generally appears with a cap pulled over his brow, a cigarette dangling from his stubbled face, talksinging and/or mumbling jive in a cancerous growl to the accompanient of cool saxophone jazz; he also writes romantic ballads, which have been covered by the Eagles, Rickie Lee Jones, and others.

Fireside, Simon & Schuster, 1995

"Cool Saxophone Jazz" as well as "Lounge Act Piano Jazz" best describes Small Change, his 1976 release, that is quite impressive, and is recommended for the standard jazz lover.

"Tom Traubert's Blues (Four Sheets To The Wind In Copenhagen)" is a heartfelt song to start out the album. Featuring Waits on the piano, with his unique voice, this song has the lounge act sound, where "that piano player" is pouring his heart out, both vocally and instrumentally. "Step Right Up" has the New Orleans jazz style, with Waits' vocal style as the great Louis Armstrong.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

What makes this album stands out so well are the songs like the opening track, "Tom Traubert's Blues." Imagine a smoke-filled saloon, where the music is heard from a small corner of the bar. And there, is a hard working piano player with a very unique voice, that you just can't help but listen to his beautiful playing and his distinctive vocal style. Songs such as "Jitterbug Boy (Sharing A Curbstone With Chuck E. Weiss, Robert Marchese, Paul Body And The Mug And Artie)," "I Wish I Was In New Orleans (In The Ninth Ward)," "The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) (An Evening With Pete King)" and "Invitation To The Blues" displays the heart and soul of Tom Waits lounge-style performances that can easily get the repeat button activated on any of these tracks to enjoy again and again.

"Pasties And A G-String (At The Two O'Clock Club)" is another upbeat Louis Armstrong-jazz tinged song. The return of the lounge-act piano playing returns again with "Bad Liver And A Broken Heart (In Lowell)". The jazz-inspired "The One That Got Away" is a talk-driven common jazz song, focusing on two main instruments in jazz: The stand-up bass, and saxophone. The saxophone-inspired talking song, "Small Change (Got Rained On With His Own .38)" is definitely jazz, with only the saxophone and Waits' vocals. The album closes with "I Can't Wait To Get Off Work (And See My Baby On Montgomery Avenue)", another lounge-act piano-driven composition.

Again, the songs that features just the soft-jazz piano and Waits' vocals truly stands out on this album. It's contemporary jazz, that can easily be compared to Humphrey Bogart's Casablanca, yet the piano player singer has a distinctive voice, that of a Louis Armstrong. Waits' voice is rough, but his vocal style surprisingly blends extremely well with the soft-jazz style. For the diehard jazz fan, this album is a must. And, this album will have you running to the record stores for more of Waits' albums. His early albums feature this kind of sound, although his later albums he experimented with electric guitar and experimental rock work. But Tom Waits is best known for the music presented here on Small Change. It's an album that will have the repeat button on for the entire album, especially the soft, piano-and-vocals lounge act compositions.

Rating: A

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