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David "Fathead" Newman: Diamondhead

Martin Longley By

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It's quite possible that David "Fathead" Newman is a soulster at heart. All three of his original compositions for this session are heavily weighed towards a breezing 1960s retro sound, awash with R&B fluids. For the rest, though, he's emphatically a jazzman, as can be heard whenever Diamondhead (to give David his new nickname) plays a New York club date.

Newman is still best known for his extended stint with Ray Charles, even as he reaches his 75th year. Since signing to the HighNote label in 2001, Newman has released virtually an album each year, all co-produced with fellow tenor man Houston Person. The 'head (Fat or Diamond, take your pick) is at his most enveloping when seducing this particular horn and his best solos here emanate from down in those lower reaches. The flute is usually deployed during those nostalgic moments when the leader coasts back four decades to when he first hooked up with trombonist Curtis Fuller and pianist Cedar Walton, his fellow veterans in this impressive quintet. The remaining rhythm team's much younger, but Newman has even known bassman Peter Washington and drummer Yoron Israel for between fifteen and twenty years.

It's a straight-ahead sequence of tunes, although the wretched Billy Joel's "New York State Of Mind" pops up as track three, a ballad that has Fathead soloing on both flute and tenor. Walton provides "Cedar's Blues" and this has a garrulous momentum, with a blustery Fuller solo. It's back to balladry with Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark," featuring a caressing tenor solo, then a detailed, sensitive piano interlude. The Diamondhead isn't really attempting any innovation, so he can hardly be dismissed for this album's lack of surprises. On the level of a relaxed, inviting glide, it's a very organic, warm-hearted set.

Track Listing: Diamondhead; Can't We Be Friends?; New York State Of Mind; Cedar's Blues; My Full House; Skylark; Star Eyes; Mama-Lou; It's You Or No One.

Personnel: David "Fathead" Newman: alto and tenor saxophones, flute; Curtis Fuller: trombone; Cedar Walton: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Yoron Israel: drums.

Title: Diamondhead | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: HighNote Records

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