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Jazz Reviews : John Newsome Leads a Be-Bopping Quintet at Jax

John Newsome, who introduced his quintet Tuesday to the diners at Jax, 339 N. Grand Ave. in Glendale, is a tenor saxophonist with many credits, mostly as a sideman, though the group he heads has been in operation largely as a rehearsal band.

Rehearsal bands are those that convene more for the joy of playing than for the rewards they may reap. Some are simply too advanced musically to appeal to the typical jazz audience, but that is not true of this bunch of straight-down-the-middle be-boppers.

Much of what they have to offer comes encased in familiar boxes, 32 bars in size, with a first and last ensemble chorus as outside wrapping and a sequence of solos inside.

Newsome’s tenor and the trumpet or fluegelhorn of his front-line partner, Steve Huffsteter, leave no doubt that they have run down these lines together a few hundred times, and a blended sound--most often in unison, with occasional touches of two part harmony--is tight and well-controlled.

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The repertoire, except for an occasional Newsome original, consists of his arrangements of such time-tested tunes as “Laura,” “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes,” “Ghost of a Chance” and the inevitable “Just Friends.”

The pianist Paul Moer, bassist Harvey Newmark and drummer Paul Kreibich are all reputable local mainstreamers who offer solid support and occasional solos, though Newsome’s assertive sound and Huffsteter’s fluid lines dominate the proceedings.

This is not the band of the century, nor even of the hour, but where it may fall short in innovation it rates points for spirit and togetherness. The gig at Jax was a one-night stand, but Newsome plans to go public more often.


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