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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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HighNote HCD 7166




1. Girl Talk
2. Life
3. Alfie
4. I Can’t Get Started
5. Old Folks
6. Autumn in New York
7. Come Sunday
8. What a Wonderful World
9. Naima

David "Fathead"Newman – Tenor sax, alto sax, flute
Steve Nelson – Vibes
David Leonhardt – Piano
Peter Bernstein – Guitar
John Menegon – Bass
Yoron Israel – Drums

David Newman has had the nickname "Fathead" for so long that he’ll never shake it off, but he is far from being a fathead. The 74-year-old saxophonist shows on his new album that he is a mature and experienced player. The ten years or so he spent as a key member of Ray Charles’s band established him as a musician of stature, and that stature is still evident today.

Born in Dallas in 1933, Newman is one of that long line of Texan saxists who, as the sleeve-note says (quoting James Clay) "are known for playing in a raunchy, straightforward manner, with lots of emotion and few frills". Maybe Texans are not noted for frills, but just listen to the way that Newman caresses Girl Talk, coaxing a variety of warm timbres out of the tenor sax. He chooses notes judiciously and refuses to show off. His restraint doesn’t hinder emotion but allows emotion to be sincerely expressed. His interpretation of Alfie is enough to bring tears to your eyes, and he is equally impassioned on alto sax in Old Folks.

Besides all this, Newman contributes some sterling flute solos on several tracks – particularly I Can’t Get Started. The piano-vibes-guitar sound on this and several other tunes is reminiscent of George Shearing’s quintets. The title track, a composition by the late John Hicks, is an intriguing waltz with outspoken flute from Newman. Here and elsewhere, the supporting musicians never put a foot wrong. But this is essentially a showcase for Newman, who is a more considerable musician than many critics give him credit for. He’s not just a Texas blues blower but an all-round musician deserving an attentive and appreciative hearing.

Tony Augarde


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