Jazz friends forever

Martin Longley heard Horace Silver, Duke Ellington, Herbie Hancock and Louis Armstrong tunes mingled together in an unusual jazz combination.

Tad Newton’s Jazz Friends
Solihull British Legion

This was not a typical band booking for a traditional jazz club. Northampton trombonist Tad Newton has a wide-ranging repertoire, not much of which is old school New Orleans jazz. His territory is more within a swing realm, but twisting and turning into the Blue Note catalogue of the 1950s and ’60s.

Nevertheless, such old stylistic divisions ought to be naturally swallowed by now, more than seventy years down the line from when the paths diverged. In essence, the Jazz Friends selected a collection of tunes that still aren’t heard together so often during a single gig. Newton formed this band just over three decades ago, and it looks like his Danish bassist Tomas Pedersen is the longest-serving member, having notched up close to 20 years on the road with this combo.

For the Solihull gig, trumpet and flügelhorner Lester Brown was guesting, accounting well for himself within the regular ranks. This was the club’s last gig before the summer break, and also marked the retirement of its chief organisers, so everyone was set on reaching a peak, and succeeding admirably with this lively sextet.

The first set kicked off with Satin Doll, then (Back Home Again In) Indiana, but there was a sideways jump with Newton’s homage to Horace Silver, choosing his Song For My Father, which completely transported the combo into a Latin soul jazz dimension. Drummer Ronnie Fenn was particularly adept at driving these stylistic changes, switching from swing momentum to a bouncier motion, full of rapid fills.

The pneumatic rhythm team buoyed up Brown’s airy flügel soloing, then there was a soprano saxophone showcase during You Go To My Head, with reedsman Trevor Whiting choosing from an armoury that also included alto and clarinet. The leader took a vocal on the spirited Jeepers Creepers, then breezed through a muted trombone solo, swiftly followed by Brown’s trumpet, also muted. Fenn utilised some more sharply hissing hi-hat fills during Watermelon Man, topped by a fluid alto solo from Whiting. The band stripped down to a trio for Lady Be Good, highlighting Alan Haughton’s jokey pub piano impersonation, then with Jive At Five and “ester Leaps In, they were firmly back in swinging mode, for a spirited close to the afternoon session.