Farnell Newton | Feel the Love Review
by Stamish Malcuss
Trumpeter and composer Farnell Newton has built his reputation by being a versatile musician. He effortlessly slides between playing jazz, hip hop, and more. When Newton is not teaching or working with youth, he is touring, recording, and performing with Mike Phillips, Jill Scott, Bootsy Collins, Liv Warfield, BET/CENTRIC Soul Train Award All-Star Band and more. Based in Portland, Oregon, Newton regularly performs with Mel Brown, Thara Memory, Bobby Torres, Johnny Polanco, Ricardo Lemvo, and Darrell Grant. Feel the Love is his latest Posi-Tone records release, where he is joined by pianist Art Hirahara, bassist Boris Kozlov, and drummers Rudy Royston and Joe Strasser. Also on the album are guest appearances by Jaleel Shaw, Braxton Cook, Brandon Wright, Michael Dease, and Patrick Cornelius.
Newton wastes no time setting his straight-ahead jazz program into play with the hard bop-inspired title track “Feel the Love” opening the set. On this selection, Newton is joined by the core quartet. The song is a Newton original and is dedicated to one of his professors at Oberlin. The song’s form switches between feels, giving us a chance to hear Newton’s playing style in both swing and straight-eight settings. His time is fluid, and though he has considerable chops, he is not afraid to lay back and let a simple melody build the energy. Hirahara’s piano solo is a highlight too.
John Scofield’s “I’ll Catch You” finds the ensemble being augmented by saxophonist Jaleel Shaw. The core quartet sounds tight and in sync. Royston’s groove is buoyant and funky. Newton’s trumpet tone is remarkably centered as he digs into the groove and makes a fascinating improvised statement. Shaw’s snaking line follows, his passion and ideas spurred on by Hirahara’s harmonic motion. Newton has made a great choice in choosing a song that showcases the players’ immense talents.
Feel the Love is Newton’s third Posi-Tone release and his strongest to date. Newton’s choice of covers and compositions by himself and one by Hirahara give the ensemble a clear roadmap to express themselves. The album also benefits from the contributions of the four guest saxophonists: Braxton Cook – alto saxophone, Jaleel Shaw – alto saxophone, Brandon Wright – tenor saxophone, and Patrick Cornelius – alto saxophone. Feel the Love will be of interest to straight-ahead jazz fans that also enjoy a few moments of funk and groove.