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Tommy Newsom and His Octo-Pussycats

Tommy Newsom

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Album Review

If you're over 35-years-old, chances are good that you remember Tommy Newsom (if at all) as the tenor saxophonist for the NBC Orchestra during the Johnny Carson years, and as that ensemble's stand-in conductor when Doc Severinsen wasn't around. The running joke on the show was that Newsom was so square — he'd stand there quietly, hands clasped behind his back, a little smile on his face, while Johnny and Ed poked fun at him for his implacable Midwestern reserve. Those who bought that pose may be surprised by the fiery swing, fierce energy and uncompromising chops that Newsom brings to his recorded work — there's nothing reticent or modest about his beautifully dancing composition "Titter Pipes" or his sturdily swinging arrangement of the Noël Coward tune "Poor Little Rich Girl." In fact, his arrangements are about as impressive as his playing and that of the rest of his octet — though the best track of all is probably that wonderful "Titter Pipes," the sole original on what is otherwise a program of standards. The album's only less-than-stellar moment comes at the weak and out-of-tune flute solo on "Cinnamon and Clove." Highly recommended overall.


Born: February 25, 1929 in Portsmouth, VA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Tommy Newsom is best known for his playing in the Tonight Show Band of the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, where he occasionally was the butt of jokes as Doc Severinsen's dim-witted sidekick. Newsom was always good-humored about it all, but this particular "gig" covered up the fact that he was actually a pretty talented tenor saxophone soloist. Besides playing with the Airmen of Note during his four years in the Air Force, Newsom studied at the Peabody Conservatory and Columbia University Teachers College,...
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Tommy Newsom and His Octo-Pussycats, Tommy Newsom
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