Multi-instrumentalist, step dancer and host of the TradCafe podcast, Neil Pearlman is a vital and distinctive voice in contemporary traditional music. Described as “a tremendous pianist” on BBC Radio Scotland and “a force to be reckoned with” by WGBH’s Brian O’Donovan, Neil is best known for his groundbreaking approach to the piano in Celtic music. Motivated by a deep musical curiosity and a love of collaboration, his playing is continually evolving and spontaneous without losing its roots in the traditional piano styles of Atlantic Canada, New England and Scotland. He has appeared at major festivals across North America and Europe including the Newport Folk Festival, Celtic Connections in Glasgow, Celtic Colours in Cape Breton, the Orkney Folk Festival, and has recorded, performed or otherwise collaborated with such artists as Natalie MacMaster, Darol Anger, Seamus Egan, Alasdair Fraser and many more.
Growing up in a musical family, Neil was immersed in Scottish and Cape Breton music and dance from the start. He began dancing at the age of 3 and the piano followed soon after. Joining his parents and siblings on stage as the family band Highland Soles, Neil learned the art of performance early at festivals and concert halls across New England. At the age of 11, he appeared several times as a dancer in Natalie MacMaster’s high-powered show alongside his mother Laura Scott and a few years later released his first album with his father, fiddler Ed Pearlman. Already at that age he was exploring a passion for other styles of music, especially a lifelong love of jazz that has always played a role in his creative voice.
Today Neil’s musical projects run the gamut from deeply traditional to refreshingly contemporary. His podcast TradCafe is a series of conversations and collaborations with traditional musicians from around the world. In 2021 TradCafe launched a video series featuring one-off musical collaborations between Neil and artists such as Troy MacGillivray, Jenna Moynihan, Begona Riobo, Anxo Pintos, Yann Falquet and Alasdair White. His 2020 release Burden Lake with acclaimed Shetland fiddler Kevin Henderson received 5 stars from The Scotsman. He tours regularly with Kevin Henderson, Katie McNally, The Pine Tree Flyers, and as a solo pianist, while playing more irregularly with a wide variety of side projects featuring top Celtic, Americana and Jazz musicians.