July 25, 1948: A Horn for Frankie Newton
Trumpeter Frankie Newton moved from New York to Boston at least twice in the late 1940s. In Boston, in 1946-47, he lived in a building at 702 Tremont Street, where the firehouse stands today. Then he was back in New York, where bad luck struck in early summer 1948: an apartment fire destroyed all his belongings. That included his horns, and although Newton played mainly trumpet, he also owned a cornet, a bass trumpet, and perhaps a few other horns, too. All lost. After that he moved back to Boston.
Newton enjoyed great popularity in Boston, and had since his triumphant engagements at the Savoy and Ken Club during World War II. Some of his Boston fans heard the news of the fire and organized a benefit to help out. The ringleaders in this effort were former members of the then-defunct Jazz Society, a volunteer organization that had staged some 40 concerts between spring 1944 and spring 1946. (This group was originally called the Boston Jazz Society, but it had no connection to the group of that name active in the 1970s-1990s.) Richard Schmidt, the society’s former president, announced it was “coming out of retirement” to stage the event, a “Rent Party,” to raise a little cash so Newton could buy a new horn.
First order of business was lining up a room, and Schmidt asked manager Steve Connolly to open the Savoy, closed for the summer, for one evening. Second was lining up a band. Two officers of the Jazz Society, bassist John Field and pianist Ev Schwarz, organized a house group, and lined up musicians like Sabby Lewis and Ruby Braff to sit in. As a special guest for an added draw, and they recruited trumpeter Johnny Windhurst.
The third order of business should have been publicity, but with time short and no budget, little was done. George Clarke gave the event a mention in his Daily Record column, and former Jazz Society member Nat Hentoff surely mentioned it on his WMEX radio program, but there wasn’t time for any serious promotion.
Was the evening a success? I don’t know. Neither Clarke nor Buddy Stuart in the Post mentioned the event in the days following, and it doesn’t come up in any biographical information on Newton that I’ve seen. But that doesn’t change the fact that Schmidt and the others deserve great credit for organizing this session on behalf of their friend in need.
Frankie Newton was such a lyrical player…here he is, assisted by James P. Johnson and other notables on a 1939 Bluebird recording of “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise.”