Of course, it helps that the horn parts that drift over Small's and Charming Hostess drummer Wes Anderson's odd-tempoed rhythms come from such strong players as Steve Adams (tenor and soprano sax), Phillip Greenlief (alto and soprano sax), and Tom Yoder (trombone). By filling the delicate space between the horns and the rhythm section, Yoder's sensitive, inventive play is especially effective. Songs like "Fall of You," a serene tour de force that sounds alternately melancholy and jubilant, trudge forward with a sadness so vast that it brings the feeling of the open sea right into the room with you.
Not many young people are daring to write so melodically -- Austin's Graham Reynolds of the Golden Arm Trio comes to mind -- yet Small really seems to have done his homework; his songs are supple and flexible enough to work with almost any instrumentation. Playing with a shifting cast of the Bay Area's finest improv musicians, Small infuses his quirky compositions with both breadth and intimacy.