May 2006

David "Fathead" Newman
HighNote Records

It’s interesting that I’m assigned to review this only a few days after finally seeing Ray, the treacly, made-up-in-Hollywood version of Ray Charles’ life. In the movie, a character named “Fathead” is essentially just a guy who shows up late for rehearsal and gets fined by Charles’ jerk of a business manager. In real life, David “Fathead” Newman was and is much more—a jazz and R&B tenorist par excellence, who’s lent his solo voice to the Charles band and recorded many notable albums over the course of a long, distinguished career.

Cityscape proves that Newman hasn’t lost much off his fastball. He’s still a solid, straight-forward improviser, heavy on blues feeling and refreshingly light on frills. The album opens with the theme to Goldfinger, and a tone is set. The arrangements for four horns plus rhythm frequently evoke ’60s-era movie music. The effect might be a bit dated, but if you’re one who considers Sean Connery the only Bond and Henry Mancini the king of film composers, it might float your boat. In any case, I dare anyone not to like Newman’s funky, melodic sax and flute work. Like Brother Ray (and Sean as 007), Fathead’s the real deal.

Originally published in May 2006
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