The Bedlam Royals

The Bedlam Royals


It's Maurice Ravel meets Frank Zappa meets South Park - the Musical. Harmonically and structurally complex music, with a '70s funk undercurrent, plays an equal part with lyrics that tell wickedly funny and sardonic stories appealing to an intelligent audience.


The newest project of Bay Area bass player and composer Matt Small, The Bedlam Royals, is an exciting amalgam of cabaret-style theatrics, pop music, and art song aesthetics. The group is a vehicle for Small’s vocal songwriting, which uses comic, off-beat storylines over intricate arrangements, resulting in a wild blend of catchy tunes with philosophical undercurrents. These evocative songs utilize both spoken-word narratives and challenging modern melodies, making it a tour-de-force for charismatic front man Walker Lewis. Lewis is a gifted singer and actor who breathes life into Small’s quirky storylines with an adept directorial hand and masterful voice. Small plays electric bass in this project and the band includes Steve Adams (saxophones), Kymry Esainko (piano), and Micah McClain (drums). Gifted in many musical settings, these instrumentalists are hardly “sidemen” in this project. They develop, create, and improvise many of their own parts within the framework of each song, adding a sense of vitality and spontaneity to the group’s repertoire. This group’s debut CD is entitled “Popular Music Night at the Glee Club.”

Hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as “a gifted San Francisco bassist and composer whose alluringly original music draws on a rich range of classical, jazz and indigenous music,” Matt Small has been developing his own cutting-edge, multi-genre work in the Bay Area since 1997. Small currently produces, performs in, and composes for three distinct groups: The Bedlam Royals, The Crushing Spiral Ensemble (a modern jazz group), and Matt Small’s Chamber Ensemble (a modern classical group).

As a performer and composer, Small has been presented at Carnegie Hall, The San Francisco Jazz Festival, The Monterey Jazz Festival, Banff’s International Music Festival, The Tanglewood Music Center, along with other major venues throughout the Bay Area and on the East Coast. As a freelance bassist, he has performed with numerous Northern California orchestras, including the Berkeley and California Symphony Orchestras. Small has also worked as a sideman in a wide variety of jazz, experimental, modern classical, and mixed genre projects on both the East and West Coasts. Small has been featured on National Public Radio’s "All Things Considered," on the Japan Broadcasting Corporation’s TV documentary on The Silk Road (NHK), and on numerous Bay Area radio stations such as KALW, KPFA, and KQED. Compositional honors for Small include two Subito Awards and a 2006 Northern California Composers Commissioning Program Award (both administered by the American Composers Forum). In 2009 Small was awarded two major commissions by San Francisco’s de Young Museum, one based on an artwork in the de Young’s permanent collection and the other inspired by the internationally celebrated King Tut exhibit currently installed at the de Young.

As a composer, Small made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2005, when Matt Small's Chamber Ensemble participated in a workshop led by renowned trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas. The workshop culminated in a concert in which Small premiered three, eight-minute works at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall. Following that workshop and concert, Douglas stated “…(Matt Small is) one of the brightest young composer/performers out there…quite a unique writer and a skillful and imaginative player, he’s a musician with a rare combination of talents.” In September 2004, Small’s multi-faceted musical personality was honored when he made his Carnegie debut as a bassist with Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project, performing in four evening concerts and multiple daytime demonstrations with Mr. Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. After the collaboration, Mr. Ma had this to say about Small: “…(he’s) so talented and innovative…a raving lunatic in the best way!”

The Crushing Spiral Ensemble, founded in 1998, is Small’s original vehicle for showcasing his compositional work. The band features a rotating cast of the Bay Area’s best and most adventurous jazz musicians. This group has performed all over Northern California in its ten-year history, including engagements at the San Francisco Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, and Yoshi’s. Matt Small's Chamber Ensemble has been heard in performance since 2002, including its 2005 Carnegie Hall debut. Born of the composer's desire to write complex material with a strong improvisatory concept, the sextet (bass, piano, saxophone, clarinet, violin, drums) blends elements of a modern classical ensemble with those of a flexible jazz/improvisatory group. Small has released five CD’s with his three groups, showcasing a wide variety of compositional work that has been lauded in the local and national press. “Navigating his harmonically dense horn orchestrations, Small churns out quirky, imaginative lines that reveal experimental rock and collective free-jazz influences,” said Bass Player Magazine. Down Beat Magazine said, “As for his wide range of stylistic explorations, Small exercises a


1) Popular Music Night at the Glee Club - The Bedlam Royals (2009)

2) On the Verge of Sentiment - Matt Small's Chamber Ensemble (2007)

3) The Royal Collection of Exotic Beasts - Matt Small's Chamber Ensemble (2005)

4) The Count of San Francisco - The Crushing Spiral Ensemble (2000)

5) Pictures of an Inhibition - The Crushing Spiral Ensemble (1999)

Set List

The Bedlam Royals performs songs written by Matt Small and occasional covers. The songs range from 3-8 minutes in length, and in a 45 minute set we play 6-8 songs. A sample set list would be:
1) Bureaucratic Sodomy
2) Dr. Blair
3) Hipster Elixer
4) A Drug Cartel Kingpin's 18
Missing Birds
5) He Brought Sexy Back
6) East German Novelists &
Tennessee Park Rangers
7) Pop Song King
8) Cried to Death