Sunday, November 11, 2007

Plenty of Life in Fathead's Horns

The High Note Recordings by David ‘Fathead’ Newman certainly add to his considerable body of work that has been recorded over six decades. There are the tenor solos he added to Zuzu Bollin’s Texas R&B guitar boogies, and his standout work with Ray Charles’ band in the late fifties as well as many albums under his name including some for Atlantic while with Charles’ Band. Life is his latest disc and produced by Newman & Houston Person, Newman is the only horn on this date, playing alto, tenor and flute. Others on this session are Steve Nelson on vibes, David Leonhardt on piano, Peter Bernstein on guitar, John Menegon on bass and Yoron Isreal on drums. Its a session of classic songs and standards from the lovely opening ballad, Girl Talk, with some rhapsodic tenor to the closing rendition of John Coltrane’s, Naima. John Hicks Life is a brisk waltz with Newman switching to flute is the only song that is not a ballad. Other numbers on which Newman displays his fluency on the flute are I Can’t Get Started, and What a Wonderful World, the latter number being a wonderful interpretation of a song best associated with Louis Armstrong as he improvises off the lyrics, an approach that characterizes his tenor playing on Alfie and his alto sax on Autumn in New York. Other highpoints include lovely renditions of Duke Ellington’s Come Sunday, and John Coltrane’s lovely Naima. Pianist Leonhardt provided the arrangements including the pleasing voicings he provides Newman’s horn along with the piano, guitar and vibes that enhance the performances. Newman comes off as a ballad master with a terrific band here. Certainly a wonderful disc to relax and listen too, although some might have wished a couple more numbers had been included with a brisker tempo.

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