On Second Thought: Matt Newton – Within Reach (2014)

Matt Newton’s refreshingly modern take on jazz music is what makes Within Reach such an amiable, lovely recording. This is the follow-up to the Toronto-based pianist’s acclaimed debut Push and stands both as a statement of intent and an indication of progress.

Newton works with a trio that includes Dan Fortin (bass) and Ethan Ardelli (drums). Felicity Williams (vocals) and Harley Card (guitar) make special appearances as well. What’s perhaps most compelling is how much the individual qualities of the players shine through on Within Reach. From Ardelli’s energetic drumming to Newton’s playing, this is a group of personalities that still coagulates as a complete trio.

This is apparent from the album-leading title track. It begins with splashes of ivory, with Fortin’s bass taking very little time to adjust before going on a walk of its own. Ardelli’s cymbals announce his presence, but there’s nothing haughty about his playing and he never overdoes it. The three individual pieces are distinctive, yet they still play in absolute service of the song. This free exchange of ideas continues on the more measured “Crossway,” a concentrated number that has Fortin taking the lead initially. Ardelli sets texture, while Newton’s barely-there piano crystallizes the boundaries. With the framework set, the piece melts into a lovely but haunting journey.

At this point in the record, it’s already been established that Newton and Co. have no interest in taking the conventionally melodic route through Within Reach. The disc is filled with interesting choices, with Newton venturing wherever he feels like without abandoning the thrust of the music.
His compositions are spacious enough to allow for play, yet they have enough structure to really serve as standalone expressions. These constructions can get a little wild at times, like with the post-rock surge of “Our Own World,” but it’s all part of the master plan.

By the time Newton reaches the piano on “Claire-ity” and delivers an attentive solo performance, one gets the feeling that Within Reach has really been about getting to know the performers within. It’s a record that, like all great art, puts Newton, Fortin and Ardelli right where the title suggests they should be.

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Jordan Richardson

Jordan Richardson is a Canadian freelance writer and ne'er-do-well. He also contributes to his own Canadian Cinephile and Canadian Audiophile websites. Contact Something Else! Reviews at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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