Small Talk is groove interwoven with beautiful tunes. With this disc, Tom melds folk elements to jazz, placing strong melodies over a sophisticated harmonic and rhythmic background. Most of the inspiration for the music on this disc comes from the Americas, ranging from combinations of Tango and swing to Gospel and Country. Tom McMahon's musical journey has led him across North America from coast to coast to coast. Fortunate to have performed with many artists playing a broad spectrum of music, Tom has forged a unique musical vision on his CD 'Small Talk'. The group on this CD consists of Sol Gunner on violin, Paul-André Lamarche on drums and Tom on Baliset, a unique 11 stringed instrument that is played by tapping the strings against the frets. Small Talk - Track listing and Tom's notes about each tune. 1. Balanceo - the sophisticated harmonic structure of Tango meets Texas swing. 2. Summer's Dance - a samba for my daughter who likes to to dance all year. 3. Cox Creek - a Gospel inflected tune written on a farm in the Outaouais that has great sunsets. 4. April 25, 2003 - all was right with the world and inspiration struck in the form of this gentle country waltz. 5. Nutoontu - a mythical place where swing rules and the shadow of Bill Evans looms large. 6. Texada - a bossa nova named after an island in the Straight of Georgia not far from where I was born. 7. Again - taking a harmonic cue from Chopin this is a lament for a friend that left us to soon. 8. Small Talk - a musical version of an activity we all engage in. 9. Sol's Swing - inspired by Sol's take on life. 10. Far Away Friend - strong groove and melody close out the CD with an emotional kick. The following is John Kellman's review at AllAboutJazz.com The Baliset, as Tom McMahon explains on the cover of his début recording, Small Talk, "...is a unique eleven-string instrument that is played by tapping the strings against the frets. The large range of the Baliset--over five octaves--fills out the trio, as bass and treble parts are played simultaneously." Like artists including Charlie Hunter with his eight-string hybrid and Tony Levin with his Stick, McMahon's instrument requires a certain independence of thought, a certain pianistic approach that most string players don't have to consider. But consider it he does, and the result is an album that covers a diversity of approaches and is all the more remarkable for McMahon's facility on his instrument. McMahon is joined on most tracks by violinist Sol Gunner and drummer Paul-André Lamarche. Gunner's roots are clearly in the tradition of Stephane Grappelli; in fact, the opening track, the lightly swinging "Balanceo," has some of the gypsy charm of the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, with Gunner's trills and ascending lines raising the temperature. Lamarche is a capable accompanist, ranging from the samba feel of "Summer's Dance" to the country tinge of "April 25, 2003." But this is really McMahon's show. All the compositions are his, and they range from the gospel inflection of "Cox Creek" to the bossa of "Texada." McMahon's themes are memorable, especially on the brooding solo piece "Again" and "Far Away Friend," which closes the album with more than a slight nod to some of the classic ECM recordings of the '70s. McMahon's harmonic changes are often-times challenging, but he and Gunner navigate them with confidence and a strong lyrical sense. The Baliset's tone is unmistakable, and it's tapped nature lends it a unique texture that is curious yet appealing, with a full bottom end and a top end that, with it's own electronics, can be processed subtly, as McMahon does on "Texada," where he makes it sound like an acoustic guitar. For the most part, though, McMahon let's the inherent, almost harp-like nature of the instrument shine through, especially on the tender and optimistic title track. McMahon has been a fixture on the Ottawa, Canada music scene for fifteen years, garnering a reputation as a rock-solid yet inventive bassist and Baliset player. With Small Talk he ups the ante to reach a broader audience. As a composer and performer he manages to work within a more-or-less jazz context, but with tunes that reflect his work in a variety of genres over the years, Small Talk is an album that will appeal to more than just the traditional jazz fan; it will appeal to anyone who is interested in strongly melodic music that swings, lilts and grooves. Small Talk is available exclusively through CDBaby on the web. ~ John Kelman.