Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Soul Man: Cicero jazz guitarist digs deep to evoke a certain sound and feel in his music

By Krista Bocko

Current in Noblesville

His father provided the tools and his mother offered the advice.

And guitarist Steve Newby added the passion for music that would drive him to live each day to the fullest.

“Enjoy now,” says Newby, the Cicero man who will display his musical talents in a return appearance to Noble Coffee and Tea Co., Friday night. “I play music, and, if I get hit by a car crossing the street on the way home, I hope the show was good.”

Growing up in Lapel, Newby was one of six children born to James and Mary Newby. His father had the philosophy that if there were musical instruments around the house, the kids would learn them. His mother said, “Stevie, get in there and learn to play that guitar.”

At age 11, that’s exactly what he did.

The self-taught musician was fortunate to have been around some talented musicians at a young age. Influenced initially by country guitarist Chet Atkins, he eventually shifted to jazz musicians such as Lee Ritenour, Earl Klugh, Martin Taylor and Brian Setzer.

One of the reasons for Newby’s penchant for jazz is the improv aspect of it. Forget about theory. Forget about the American heritage of it all. A jazz musician doesn’t play like that, says Newby.

“It’s literally right off your head,” he explains. “There’s a chord chart. But all that stuff you hear? Most of that’s not written. One guy I played with did an 11-minute solo. There’s no way (it was written down). That music would go from here to the river. You just let it go from your soul.”

A favorite on the Indy jazz scene, Steve Newby and Conversation Pieces first played in Cicero Coffee Company more than 20 years ago. Coffee shops such as the welcoming coffee shop on the square remain a favorite venue.

Donning tuxes and with the promise of delivering a show “so fresh it’s still wet,” drummer John Schilk and jazz organist and Westfield native Chris Bales will join Newby Friday.

There’ll be no admission charge for the show, and the band will be playing for free.

“Everybody does it because they just like to do it,” Newby says. “When you walk into a club or a coffee shop, you’re getting musicians who play because they want to be here. They have a story.”

The story is an important element to Newby and it’s reflected in his music.

“I try to capture a very heartfelt rendering of the music,” he says. “Most have a very deep meaning, either from the words or something that triggered that through something in my life. Life’s journey has offered me times that weren’t so good, like all of us.”

“When I play certain songs it evokes a certain feeling in me. I’m able to capture that exact feeling, and I’ve surrounded myself with people who have stories also.”

Newby will introduce a new song, “There Will Never Be another You,” Friday night. First published in 1942, it was written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon for the musical "Iceland” and has been recorded by many, including Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. Newby’s rendition will be an arrangement with improv as inspired by jazz creativity.

Guests will also hear “The Nearness of You,” written by Indiana’s Hoagy Carmichael in 1938. Glenn Miller had a huge hit with “Nearness” in 1940, and Norah Jones brought it to the forefront in 2002 on her multi-Grammy-winning “Come Away with Me.”

“There’s a lot of depth to those songs,” Newby says. “I’m not interested in flair, speed, flash. I want people to go away and say ‘What was that?’

“I read the eyes in the crowd. I keep it moving and fresh and hit it and leave it. I’ve looked into a crowd and have seen people crying. To me, it’s like ‘I win.’ They win.’ ”

Steve Newby & Conversation Pieces

When: 7 p.m., Friday.

Where: Noble Coffee & Tea, 933 Logan St., Noblesville.

Admission: Free.

Info: www.reverbnation.com/stevennewby or search for Steve Newby on Facebook

Hamilton County’s best-kept secret

Every Saturday night a music happening takes place “in the middle of nowhere” and guitarist Steve Newby is often in the middle of it.

People flock from Indy, Kokomo, and surrounding communities to see a six-piece jazz band infuse a nostalgic old building, atmosphere and crowd with its special sound. The venue is the Atlanta Music Hall, about 20 minutes north of Noblesville in Atlanta.

“This is fulfilling for me and offers something to people who come to hear it,” Newby said. “The community gains from it in the fact that there’s live music. There’s not a lot of places like Noble Coffee or Hedgehog Showcase (in Arcadia) or Atlanta Music Hall.”

Shows in Atlanta are from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Saturdays, and open jam sessions are on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. There is no cover charge, but donations are accepted to assist with the operating expenses. Coffee and soft drinks are available for purchase. The hall is located at 135 W. Main St. For more information, visit http://www.theatlantamusichall.com/.

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