The set begins with a slow, aching reading of Rogers and Hart's "Dancing on the Ceiling" that is unlike any other version with which I am familiar. "You and the Night and the Music" is given a treatment that somehow manages to be both festive and mysterious, with fine contributions from drummer Victor Lewis, Lou Marini on flute and Frank London on flugelhorn. Wolper includes three nice romantic originals; "Gray, Not Blue, "Not Sleeping in Your Arms," and "Rendezvous in Providence," the last incorporating a poem by D. Nurkse. The diverse selection of songwriters whose work is represented includes Van Morrison, Bob Dorough, Blossom Dearie and, with his lyric to Bobby Timmons' "Moanin'," Jon Hendricks.
Though there is some diversity, the one weakness of the collection is that so many of the ballads are taken at a painstaking pace by Wolper, Affif and Filiano. Uptempo numbers like "Little Suzie's Humming," anchored by Jamey Haddad at the traps, break up the languidity effectively, only to be followed by slower trio numbers like "Moanin'" and "Small Day Tomorrow." While these pieces are individually sound, taken together they build a cumulative sense that is somewhat depressive. This complaint aside, Wolper is a fine singer and promising songwriter, and Affif and Filiano both expressive players. Though a little flawed, The Small Hours is nonetheless an interesting and rewarding date.