The Crushing Spiral Ensemble

The Crushing Spiral Ensemble


It's a modern Jazz group and a sophisticated jam band. Complex music with a 70s fusion undercurrent combined with the precision execution of modern classical music aesthetics. Great improvisers navigate the boundaries of Jazz with a spirit of fun and openness appealing to an intelligent audience.


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Videos of The Crushing Spiral Ensemble, can be seen at:

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 Crushing Spiral Ensemble, Matt Small’s Chamber Ensemble (a modern classical group), and The Bedlam Royals (a modern cabaret group).

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. Small released two albums with the original group, Pictures of an Inhibition (1999), and The Count of San Francisco (2000). “Beautifully surreal and hauntingly languid…demonstrating Small’s affinity for wry humor and quiet grandiosity” said the San Francisco Bay Guardian of the first release. The San Francisco Weekly described the second album as “seductive and mysterious…shifting effortlessly among klezmer, pop, rock, and improv jazz…Small infuses his quirky compositions with both breadth and intimacy.” In a live concert review, the late, revered Phil Elwood of the San Francisco Examiner raved “Small’s magnificent and imaginative bass playing creates a kaleidoscope of impressive sounds…the music (the Crushing Spiral Ensemble) plays has an integrity and excitement about it that many of the veteran jazz giants seem to have lost over the years.” The Ensemble’s most recent formation features a new repertoire of music written by Small in recent years and a fresh cast, including some of the Bay Area’s most well respected players: Sheldon Brown (sax), Steve Adams (sax), Chris Grady (trumpet) and Jeff Marrs (drums). A new CD with this band and music will be coming out in 2010. Video’s of the band debuting this new repertoire at Yoshi’s in San Francisco can be seen here:

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!”

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’s newest project, The Bedlam Royals, is an exciting amalgam of cabaret-style theatrics, pop music, and art song aesthetics. T


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

Our songs are between 3 and 10 minutes, generally. In a 45 minute set we play about 6-9 songs. A typical set list would look like this:
1) Puppeteer
2) Silk Flowers
3) Stages of the Hunt
4) Elegant Spy
5) A Maroon Coloured Case for Perfection
6) Wire Walker
7)Chess with Demons