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June 2003

David "Fathead" Newman
The Gift
HighNote Records

At age 70, veteran saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman has not even begun to slow down. The Gift (HighNote) finds him still in command of all his considerable talents in a showcase for his soul-drenched tenor, some boppish alto, a bit of funky flute and some meditative soprano. Half of the compositions are his own, and, appropriately, three of them are blues. But then nearly everything he plays is injected with heartfelt blues feeling. Meanwhile, vibist Bryan Carrott's gentle "Unspeakable Times," with its intriguing metric scheme and recurring bass figure, provides an interesting contrast. And since Newman first came to prominence as featured soloist with Ray Charles, it seems fitting that he also should include the mournful "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" and "Unchain My Heart," a pair of songs associated with his erstwhile leader. Newman enjoys solid support from Carrott, pianist John Hicks, bassist Buster Williams (who lays down a fiercely propulsive beat) and drummer Winard Harper, all of whom also provide fine solos of their own.

Originally published in June 2003
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