Keep the Spirits Singing
Newman's latest record teams him with the remarkable rhythm section of pianist John Hicks, bassist Steve Novosel and drummer Winard Harper. Added to the mix on three tunes are trombonist Steve Turre and percussionist Steve Kroon.
This lively group gets off to a swinging start on the title track, a Latinish number marred only by Kroon's incessantly clanging cowbell. Turre has a rich, ripe sound that is well-suited to this dancing piece and he leaves just enough meat on the bone for Newman to chew on during his tenor solo. Besides tenor, Newman also plays flute on two tunes: the very cheery Hicks waltz "Life," and his own catchy "Cousin Esau," which is set to what Fathead calls the listen-here beat: "It's a four-beat rim-shot figure played on the snare drum."
As might be expected from a Texas tenorman, Newman's flute playing is as robust as his other axe(s), which also includes alto sax, heard here on the waltz-tempoed "Willow Weep for Me." Newman's full-bodied tenor gets the white-glove treatment on "Karen My Love," a ballad he wrote for his wife, which is graced by yet another of Hicks' amazing solos. The full group comes together again on Turre's oddly jointed "Mellow-D for Mr. C" (as in Ray Charles, with whom he and Newman served) and the closer, "Asia Beat," a joyous samba-is there any other kind?