Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


David "Fathead" Newman: I Remember Brother Ray

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
When Ray Charles passed away last June, his influence was so far reaching that there was little doubt all manner of tributes would soon follow. While there are bound to be attempts to capitalize on his death, nothing could be further from the truth in this case. Saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman got his first big break with Charles in the early '50s, playing in his band from '54 through '64 and making numerous guest appearances in the years to come. And so "Fathead"—a nickname Charles never liked, preferring to call him "Brains"—entered the studio of another legend—engineer Rudy van Gelder—just two months after Charles' death to record I Remember Brother Ray, a tribute to the jazzier side of a man who always regarded himself as a jazz singer anyway.

Some music is meant to stretch boundaries, and some is meant purely as a salve for the soul. Newman has never been considered a particularly adventurous tenor player, yet his warm tone, occasionally terse phrasing, and always heartfelt delivery has placed him in high demand by artists as diverse as B.B. King, Herbie Mann, Jane Monheit, and Gregg Allman. In fact, one look at his discography and it becomes evident that his career has been marked more by appearances as a guest than as a leader. Still, with over twenty recordings to his name, I Remember Brother Ray stands as an understated highlight, a record that doesn't so much jump out at you as it does gently sidle up beside you and caress you with its warmth and affability.

Like saxophonist Houston Person, who coproduces the disc with Newman and delivered his own heartfelt tribute to longtime collaborator Etta Jones last year with To Etta With Love, I Remember Brother Ray evokes the ambience of a smoky bar in the early hours of the morning. Never getting much past a medium tempo—"Hit the Road Jack" is about as lively as things get, and even then, it's more a finger-snapping number than a foot-moving one—Newman has assembled a quintet as comfortable with the tender balladry of "Georgia on My Mind" as it is the soul-drenched blues of "Drown in My Tears." Charles believed that the ability to play jazz permits the ability to cross over into other genres, and the playing on I Remember Brother Ray clearly supports his conviction. One sometimes forgets that vibraphonist Steve Nelson, heard most often these days in the more modernistic Dave Holland Quintet and Big Band, comes from a mainstream background, but his playing on the relaxed swing of "Ruby" and "It Had to Be You" proves that even the most forward-thinking of players have to have roots.

While there will undoubtedly be many tributes in the near future, few discs will equal I Remember Brother Ray for its grace, honesty, and pure connection to the true essence of Charles' legacy.

Visit David "Fathead" Newman on the web.

Track Listing: Hit the Road Jack; Georgia on My Mind; When Your Lover Has Gone; Drown in My Tears; Deed I Do; It Had to Be You; Ruby; Them That Got It (I ain't Got Nothing Yet)

Personnel: David

Title: I Remember Brother Ray | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: HighNote Records


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Satoko Fujii Solo CD/LP/Track Review Satoko Fujii Solo
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 17, 2018
Read when the shade is stretched CD/LP/Track Review when the shade is stretched
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 17, 2018
Read The Influencing Machine CD/LP/Track Review The Influencing Machine
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 17, 2018
Read Presence CD/LP/Track Review Presence
by Geannine Reid
Published: January 17, 2018
Read Flaneur CD/LP/Track Review Flaneur
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: January 16, 2018
Read D'Agala CD/LP/Track Review D'Agala
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 16, 2018
Read "Morphogenesis" CD/LP/Track Review Morphogenesis
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 13, 2017
Read "Heptagon" CD/LP/Track Review Heptagon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 23, 2017
Read "TITOK" CD/LP/Track Review TITOK
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 14, 2017
Read "Entremundos" CD/LP/Track Review Entremundos
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: August 29, 2017
Read "The Ultimate Experience" CD/LP/Track Review The Ultimate Experience
by Chris Mosey
Published: October 10, 2017
Read "II" CD/LP/Track Review II
by Kevin Press
Published: November 7, 2017