Tommy Newsom, the butt of many a Johnny Carson joke when he played in the Tonight Show band, isn’t nearly as colorless as Johnny would have had us believe. Beneath that bland exterior lies the soul of an impassioned swinger, as Newsom proves on Friendly Fire, his long–overdue debut for Florida–based Arbors Records. Tommy has chosen an able sparring partner in veteran valve trombonist Bob Enevoldsen who has been one of the West Coast’s most respected musicians for nearly half a century. Together they tap–dance their way nimbly through a varied program of Jazz and popular standards plus Jobim’s “Corcovado” (“Quiet Nights”) and Paul Williams / Kenny Ascher’s “Rainbow Connection,” written for Kermit the Frog of Muppets fame, receiving unshakeable support at every bend in the road from an able–bodied rhythm section guided by pianist John Hammond and energized by bassist Jim Hughart and drummer Dave Hunt. The trio is showcased on “Rainbow Connection” and Ellington’s “Do Nothin’ ’Til You Hear from Me,” with Hammond’s lyrical phrases accentuated by Hughart’s resonant bass line and Hunt’s tasteful brush work, while Newsom and guitarist Bob Bain make it a quintet on Leo Robin / Ralph Rainger’s “Easy Living” (as seamless a collaborative effort as one is likely to hear with superb comping by Hammond). Bain is also on board for “Quiet Nights” (with Enevoldsen again sitting out), Bird’s “Billie’s Bounce,” Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” and the finale, “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be.” Although the Newsom / Enevoldsen coupling may stir memories of Stan Getz / Bob Brookmeyer, Enevoldsen is more securely bound to Brookmeyer than Newsom is to Getz. Tommy sounds more like Georgie Auld, Dick Hafer, Spike Robinson or such contemporary offspring as Scott Hamilton, Ken Peplowski and especially Harry Allen. Friendly or no, Newsom, Enevoldsen and their companions play with an abundance of fire coupled with infallibly good taste. It’s a rare combination, worth checking out.
Contact: Arbors Records, 2189 Cleveland St., Suite 225, Clearwater, FL 33765. Phone 727–466–0571; fax 727–466–0432; e–mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Web site, www.arborsjazz.com
Track Listing: Close Your Eyes; Just Friends; Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise; Do Nothin
Personnel: Tommy Newsom, tenor saxophone; Bob Enevoldsen, valve trombone; John Hammond, piano; Bob Bain, guitar; Jim Hughart, bass; Dave Hunt, drums.