Jun 2, 2011

[REVIEW] Farnell Newton "Class is Now in Session"

RATING: 9/10 CHET BAKERS

Over the last decade or so there have been an influx of a newer form of Jazz that incorporated elements of hip hop and R&B.  Hidden Beach Unwrapped might be one of the more well known entries into this style with their "Unwrapped" series.  Other releases include Branford Marsalis' group "Buckshot Lefonque" and their release "Music Evolution", and Brooklyn Funk Essential's "Cool and Steady and Easy". 

I've always been a fan of music that combines elements of various genres to create their own style.  Whether it's hip hop and rock or whatever, that's always been something I like.   And now Farnell Newton's debut release "Class Is Now In Session" is another successful entry into this genre mixing category.

Farnell Newton's debut album, is simply put, good music.  A hip cool amalgamation of hip hop, jazz, funk and soul.  With several features on here such as singer Toni Hill, and production by Dookie Green, this is a lively foot tapping, head nodding affair.

"Baby Names"  is a very smooth entry, and Hill's voice can best be summed up in four words, coincidentally the first four words of her verse, "Candy Apple Sugar Sweet".  Her voice is very sweet and sounds perfect accompanying Newton's trumpet.  "The Bluest Eyes Revisited" has Newton providing an update to an earlier song of his "The Bluest Eyes, and it's a nice way of sort of crossing the bridge from traditional jazz to the more hip hop influenced jazz as it begins with his original version, only to give in to the scratching of a record and then the new updated version begins playing signaling a new direction.

I've known Newton for awhile, having met him on an internet forum years back.  I've followed his career as he became Professor of Jazz Trumpet at Portland State University, and as two of his five children were born, and now with his album.   So knowing these things about him, when I first got the review copy and saw the track listing, I kind of smiled.   Because several of these songs absolutely came from his life.

Beautiful songs like "Daddy's Little Girls" and "A Child Not Yet Born" no doubt are drawn from his personal experiences, which is what any serious musician does: Draws from life experience. Whether you are John Coltrane, Miles David, Chet Baker or any of the legends, or you're an up and coming musician, the best music is music from the heart.   Music that means something to you, so that when you play, and you really get into it, the audience knows.  They sense that this is a personal thing.   That you're not simply going through the motions.

It's liking hearing Mary J. Blige singing No More Drama.  You know the meaning of that song, you know the emotions embedded into the fabric of those lyrics, and how they relate to her life, and so when you see her singing that, and you watch that video and see the tears going down her face, you know it's real.  That's not manufactured, that's not faked.  You can't fake that real raw emotion.


Which is why when you hear this album, you can tell there are songs on here that are personal to Newton, and it adds that extra level to an already stellar debut offering.

If you're a fan of jazz music with that hip hop/funk edge to it, then you definitely need Farnell Newton's "Class is Now in Session" in your life.

HIGHLIGHTS:  Baby Names feat. Toni Hill, Love Games feat. Michael Whitmore, The Bluest Eyes Revisited, Bump.

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