James Clay & David "Fathead" Newman: The Sound of the Wide Open Spaces (2002)
The wide open spaces referred to in the title is not a reference to free jazz, but rather a description of Texas, the home state of both Clay and Newman. Cannonball Adderley, who began producing records with this album in the hopes of giving credit to lesser-known musicians, brought together these two tenormen for what became quite a blowing session. There are no surprises here; a few bluesy originals, a couple of standards, all played at an appropriate tempo, all of which could be a recipe for mediocrity in the wrong hands. However, this album succeeds due in large part to the excellent rhythm section and the graceful play of the horns. Clay and Newman bring out the best in each other and blend together nicely, but still retain their own character-Newman’s bright and probing, Clay’s wooden and forceful. Both are capable of playing an endless array of interesting ideas, ensuring that even the twelve minute long title track doesn’t wear thin. Neither Clay’s or Newman’s work apart from one another is anything to write home about, yet when paired together they managed to create an album that holds its own with the more consistent work of their peers.
Track Listing: Wide Open Spaces; They Can't Take That Away From Me; Some Kinda Mean; What's New; Figger-Ration.
Personnel: James Clay-tenor sax, flute (on #4 only); David "Fathead" Newman-tenor sax; Wynton Kelly-piano; Sam Jones-bass; Arthur Taylor-drums.
Record Label: Fantasy Jazz