It's hard to fault listeners for thinking of David "Fathead" Newman as only a great rhythm and blues tenor player, since many of his short solos on famous Ray Charles recordings have become classics in their own right. But Newman regrets that more people don't realize he is at heart a straightahead, mainstream player who just happened to be there in the mid-'50s when Charles needed a Texas tenor. If his own previous releases didn't set the record straight, Davey Blue just might.
With a solid hard-bop rhythm section of vibist Bryan Carrott, bassist David Williams, drummer Kenny Washington and the prototypical hard-bop pianist Cedar Walton, Newman's latest effort attests to his comfort in a variety of mainstream settings. His husky, blues-drenched tenor is featured on half of the eight tracks, including the jaunty "Cellar Groove," Eddie Harris' angular "Freedom Jazz Dance," Newman's own grooving "For Stanley" (Turrentine) and his sultry ballad "Davey Blue," a beautifully constructed songlike tune that warrants more attention. He switches to alto for a soulful reading of Duke Pearson's "Cristo Redentor" and some forceful bop on Walton's swinging "Black." The flute is his instrument of choice for a touching rendition of Thad Jones' "A Child Is Born," on which Walton provides an imaginative, almost compositionlike solo, and an airy, percussive treatment of his own Rollinsesque calypso "Amandla."
Davey Blue attests to the folly of pigeonholing so versatile a musician as David "Fathead" Newman.