The great Frank Newton

by David Tenner

The worst part of the article isn't even about Bix. It's the contrast between Frankie Newton ("another [sic!] negro with a hot horn") and the "intelligent, cultured" Red Norvo. As if a "negro" can't be "intelligent, cultured." By all accounts, Frank Newton (like Trumbauer, he preferred to be called Frank rather than Frankie) was a very intelligent man: "Nat Hentoff has written eloquently of Newton, whom he knew in Boston, and the man who comes through is proud, thoughtful, definite in his opinions, politically sensitive, infuriated by racism and by those who wanted to limit his freedoms." As for Newton's and Norvo's music, to contrast an up-tempo performance by Newton with a ballad by Norvo proves nothing; one could easily reverse the process.

There are plenty of examples of Newton's sensitivity as a trumpet player in slow and medium tempos. Mark has already mentioned "The Blues My Baby Gave to Me." And listen to Newton in Midge Williams' "An Old Flame Never Dies." Or hear him in "Parallel Fifths" Or with Mary Lou Williams in "Lullaby of the Leaves." Or with Miss Rhapsody in "Sweet Man." Or with James P. Johnson, in "The Dream (Slow Drag"). Or with Big Joe Turner on "S.K. Blues" (which also includes some great Don Byas on tenor sax).

At least I can thank the author of that article for giving me an excuse to write about Newton, one of my favorite musicians!

Posted on Aug 14, 2017, 9:20 PM

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