David 'Fathead' Newman
"I Remember Brother Ray"

Review from Mike Joyce of The Washington Post

"I Remember Brother Ray"

Friday, February 11, 2005; Page WE07

Though there will be many Ray Charles tribute CDs to come, it's hard to imagine a more sincere, evocative and soulful homage than saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman's latest recording. "I Remember Brother Ray" is an all-tenor-sax session, featuring eight songs associated with the legend, who died last year, and there's not a performance in the bunch that doesn't put Charles on our mind.

Newman played reeds alongside his mentor for more than a decade, during the halcyon days at Atlantic Records, and he remains one of the great Texas-bred tenor men. His tone is warm and resonant, his phrasing unfussy, and his harmonic finesse allows him to effortlessly bridge R&B and jazz traditions. For proof, just listen to the opening track, a version of "Hit the Road Jack" that finds Newman moving with ease and authority from the original strutting pulse into a swing groove sustained by drummer Winard Harper's tapping ride cymbal. Much of the music here is inspired by the small combo sessions Charles made in the '50s, and the intimate settings are particularly well suited to Newman's deep-toned balladry, as terrific versions of "Georgia on My Mind" and "Drown in My Tears" attest.

Three tunes, however, serve as quintet reminders of Charles's big-band recordings. Among these is "Deed I Do," a vibrant showcase for Newman and the seasoned crew that consistently enhances this heartfelt, soul-stirring salute: drummer Harper, pianist John Hicks, vibraphonist Steve Nelson and bassist John Menegon. -- Mike Joyce

Appearing Friday and Saturday at Twins Jazz. | To hear a free Sound Bite from David "Fathead" Newman, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8129. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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