Farnell Newton – Back to Earth – Posi Tone Records #8169 – 56:36 – ****
(Farnell Newton – trumpet; Kyle Molitor – trombone; Greg Goebel – piano; Dylan Sundstrom – bass; Christopher Brown – drums)
Jazz is alive and well in Portland…
Most every major metropolitan area has jazz musicians who could have a national presence if they could afford to live in New York City’s highly competitive (and expensive) jazz scene. For various reasons, they choose to remain as “big fish” in smaller jazz markets. Many teach in jazz studies programs at colleges, where they receive health benefits and pensions. They can also serve as first call sidemen for nationally known artists who who visit their locales for single night gigs. (However, it is easier to get these gigs for rhythm section instrumentalists—piano, bass, and drums—than it is for front line horn players).
Posi Tone Records is one of the few labels to feature regional talent as band leaders. In this case, they feature Portland, Oregon trumpeter, Farnell Newton, backed by fellow Rose City talent. Newton is a jazz professor at Portland State University, a program led by Darrell Grant.
Farnell can hold his own in any jazz setting. He has the right tools needed to take command—power, passion, gorgeous tone, and the undefinable presence on stage that I would describe as “swagger.” It’s the assertiveness that marked trumpet greats like Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, and Woody Shaw. When you hear Farnell blow, you sit up and take notice.
On Back to Earth, Newton wrote eight out of the eleven tracks. Trombonist Kyle Molitor provides a perfect front line mate, and their blend brings to mind a Blue Note session from the 1960s, a distinct compliment.
“Transcendentals” opens with a buttery mellifluous ambiance. Greg Goebel’s piano provides sparkling accompaniment. Freddie Hubbard’s “Arietas” is a perfect vehicle for Farnell to burn hot, much like the tune’s author. Dylan Sundstrom, on bass, is notable for a well recorded bottom end, and Goebel again is crisp and swinging.
Drummer Christopher Brown’s title cut is soulful with Goebel’s bluesy piano choruses setting the stage for Newton to gently caress the melody. “The Roots” lets Molitor enter center stage. Wayne Shorter’s “El Gaucho” is hard bop heaven and the band is truly coalescing. “Open Your Mind” provides Newton and Molitor a palette to paint a comforting musical message.
Kudos to Posi Tone for showing that jazz is alive and well in Portland.
Transcendentals, Arietas, Crossing the Tracks, Back to Earth, The Roots, Redefining the Norm, El Gaucho, Road to the South, Gazillionaire, Open Your Mind, Sons of the Sun