Matt Newton – Within Reach – FTM 2014, 49:30 ****:
(Matt Newton – piano/Rhodes/whistles; Dan Fortin – bass; Ethan Ardelli – drums; Felicity Williams – voice track 5; Harley Card – guitar track 5)
The best known musical personality to originate from Ottawa, Canada was singer/composer Paul Anka. And while jazz has sporadically been spot-lit at now long-departed venues such as the Ottawa House (really in Hull Quebec) and the Beacon Arms and other like locations, the jazz tradition in the city has been tepid at best. Matt Newton who grew up and started his musical education there, might be in a position to change the jazz perception of the city for the better.
There is certainly no question that Newton has pianistic talent to burn, although his compositional capabilities may be best described as interesting but unfulfilled. Working in a trio setting apart from the final track “Claire-ity” which is a solo effort, Newton and his cohorts are compatibly intrepid and make the most of the material at hand. Opening with the title track “Within Reach” the band shows its style which is based on the use of space and a lean texture with bassist Fortin showing some strong lines and drummer Ardelli covering his drum kit to good effect. “Crossway” moves in a different direction with a strong bass line established by Fortin and Newton moving his playing around in a more free-form manner, as Ardelli dip and pops on his cymbals and snare drum.
Continuing with the tonal palette that Newton has established with chord changes and a clear technique “Stepping Into The Light” demonstrates a self-sustaining aspect that are the hallmarks of a skillful pianist. Each of the subsequent tracks are delightfully rendered in a similar manner, are harmonically interesting, and stylishly nimble with “Building The Ship” the apotheosis of this effort.
The Ontario Arts Council funded this release, but it would have added considerable value to the process, if liner notes had been written to add an explanation of what Newton was intending to accomplish though his music.
TrackList: Within Reach; Crossway; Stepping Into The Light; Short Flight; Our Own World; Building The Ship; Ends ( D. Fortin); Claire-ity