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David “Fathead” Newman: Chillin’

For the past several seasons, David Newman has voiced the joys of country living from the comfortable confines of his Woodstock-area home, which has contributed new luster and mellow qualities to his work on saxophones (dig the tenor tone on “These Foolish Things”) and flutes. Standing in the middle of a mountain stream, barefoot and coverall-ed on the CD cover, all’s seemingly right in Fathead’s world. And that sense of comfort and good vibes permeates this disc, whose title is quite apt. Newman embraces this music with the seasoned improviser’s special coupling of swing and relaxation.

There is a level of communication reached when bandleaders have the luxury of long-term work with familiars. Such is the case with bassist Steve Novosel and virtuoso vibist Bryan Carrott. HighNote house pianist John Hicks and drummer Winard Harper round out the cast. There’s nothing particularly chance-taking about this date or these selections, which opens with Ellington’s “Take the Coltrane” and closes with the Chicago city blues anthem “Red Top.” But then the real challenge is to make consistently good music, engaging for both the players at hand and ultimately for the listener-a goal that is achieved here. Newman also introduces his pleasant-voiced vocalist-son Cadino Newman on “Caravan” and the closing “Red Top” as a voice of promise.

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