David "Fathead" Newman

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David "Fathead" Newman
David Fathead Newman.jpg
David "Fathead" Newman appearing Live at the Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver
Background information
Birth nameDavid Newman, Jr.
Born(1933-02-24)February 24, 1933
Corsicana, Texas, United States
DiedJanuary 20, 2009(2009-01-20) (aged 75)
Kingston, New York
Genres
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
InstrumentsSaxophone, flute
LabelsAtlantic, Prestige, Riverside
Associated actsRay Charles, Herbie Mann, Stanley Turrentine
WebsiteDavidfatheadnewman.com

David "Fathead" Newman (February 24, 1933 – January 20, 2009) was an American jazz and rhythm-and-blues saxophonist who made numerous recordings as a session musician and leader, but is best known for his work as a sideman on seminal 1950s and early 1960s recordings by singer-pianist Ray Charles.

The AllMusic Guide to Jazz wrote that "there have not been many saxophonists and flutists more naturally soulful than David "Fathead" Newman," and that "one of jazz's and popular music's great pleasures is to hear, during a vocalist's break, the gorgeous, huge Newman tones filling the space…"[1] Newman is sometimes cited as a leading exponent of the so-called "Texas Tenor" saxophone style, which refers to the many big-toned, bluesy jazz tenor players from that state.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Newman was born in Corsicana, Texas, on February 24, 1933, but grew up in Dallas, where he studied first the piano and then the saxophone.[3] According to one account, he got his nickname "Fathead" in school when "an outraged music instructor used it as an epithet after catching Mr. Newman playing a Sousa march from memory rather than from reading the sheet music, which rested upside down on the stand."[4]

Inspired by the jump blues bandleader Louis Jordan, Newman took up the alto saxophone in the seventh grade, and was mentored by former Count Basie saxophonist Buster Smith.[5] He went off to Jarvis Christian College on a music and theology scholarship but quit school after three years and began playing professionally, mostly jazz and blues, with a number of musicians, including Smith, pianist Lloyd Glenn, and guitarist bandleaders Lowell Fulson and T-Bone Walker.[3]

Sideman and soloist with Ray Charles[edit]

Newman met and befriended Ray Charles in early 1951 when Charles was playing piano and singing with the Lowell Fulson band.[5] Newman joined Charles’ band in 1954 as a baritone saxophone player, but later switched to tenor and became Charles’ principal saxophone soloist after tenor saxophonist Don Wilkerson left the band.[5][6]

Many of Charles’ seminal recordings during the 1950s and early 1960s feature a saxophone solo by Newman. These include hits such as "Lonely Avenue," "Swanee River Rock," "Ain’t That Love," "The Right Time" (with Newman on alto sax), and "Unchain My Heart".[7] Although his solos were short in duration, they became, as the New York Times later noted, "crucial to the Ray Charles sound."[8] Atlantic Records’ producer Jerry Wexler, who signed Charles to the label, called Newman Charles’ "alter ego on tenor."[9] Charles said that Newman "could make his sax sing the song like no one else."[10] As Newman himself put it, "I became famous for playing 8-bar and 12-bar solos!"[5]

In 1959, Newman released his debut album as a leader, Fathead: Ray Charles Presents David Newman, with Charles playing piano.[5] He stayed with Charles’ band until 1964, and rejoined the group in 1970–1971.[5]

Later life and career[edit]

After leaving Charles' band, Newman worked with Herbie Mann's band in 1970-71, and recorded albums for Atlantic, Warner Bros., Prestige and Muse.[11] Newman did session work with a variety of artists, including Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Joe Cocker, Dr. John, and with Natalie Cole on her Unforgettable album.[5] He also worked as a sideman with Jimmy Scott, B.B. King, and Lou Rawls.[2] He also scored films and performed in the Robert Altman film Kansas City and did a national tour with the band from that 1996 film for Verve records.[5] In 1990 he was nominated for a Grammy Award for recordings with Art Blakey and Dr. John.[4]

Newman was portrayed by Bokeem Woodbine in the 2004 Ray Charles biopic Ray starring Jamie Foxx. While praising Foxx's performance as Ray Charles, Newman disputed the accuracy of the film's depiction of himself, in particular its portrayal of him as having introduced Charles to hard drugs.[5]

Newman died in Kingston, New York, at the age of 75 of pancreatic cancer.[3]

Over the years up to 2008, Newman recorded over thirty-eight albums under his own name, including his first, Fathead, Ray Charles Presents David 'Fathead' Newman, recorded in 1958,[12][13] but not released until 1960, and the second, The Sound of the Wide Open Spaces!!!!, with James Clay,[14] produced by Cannonball Adderley. He also played R&B and blues, appearing on recordings with Jimmy Scott, Stanley Turrentine, Aretha Franklin, B. B. King, the Average White Band, Jimmy McGriff, Eric Clapton, John Stein, Natalie Cole, Hank Crawford, Aaron Neville, Queen Latifah, Richard Tee,[15] Dr. John, Cheryl Bentyne of the Manhattan Transfer, Gregg Allman, and country-rock/tex-mex artist Doug Sahm.

Death[edit]

On January 20, 2009, Newman died from complications of pancreatic cancer.[16]

Discography[edit]

As leader/co-leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Laverne Butler

  • A Foolish Thing To Do (Maxjazz, 2000)

With Ray Charles

With Hank Crawford

With Cornell Dupree

  • Teasin' (Atlantic, 1974)

With Eddie Harris

With JW-Jones

  • Kissing in 29 Days (NorthernBlues, 2006)

With B.B. King

With Charles Kynard

With Junior Mance

With Herbie Mann

With Arif Mardin

With Jimmy McGriff

With Meeco

  • Amargo Mel (Connector, 2009)

With Jane Monheit

With Lee Morgan

With Don Patterson

With Jimmy Scott

  • All the Way (Sire, 1992)

With Shirley Scott

With Lonnie Smith

With John Stein

  • Green Street (Challenge, 1999)

Other appearances

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ron Wynn, et al., All Music Guide to Jazz, 495 (Miller Freeman Books 1994)
  2. ^ a b "Billy Taylor's Jazz | Guest Artist". Npr.org. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "David 'Fathead' Newman dies at 75; jazz saxophonist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Ben Ratliff (January 22, 2009). "David (Fathead) Newman, Saxophonist, Dies at 75". The New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bill Dahl, "The Saxmen," liner notes to Ray Charles: Genius and Soul, Rhino Records (1997).
  6. ^ Robert Palmer, liner notes to The Birth of Soul: the Complete Atlantic Rhythm & Blues Recordings 1952-1959, Atlantic Records (1991).
  7. ^ liner notes to The Birth of Soul: the Complete Atlantic Rhythm & Blues Recordings 1952-1959, Atlantic Records (1991).
  8. ^ Ben Ratliff, "David (Fathead) Newman, Saxophonist, Dies at 75," New York Times, January 22, 2009.
  9. ^ Jerry Wexler, Rhythm and the Blues: A Life in American Music, 106 (Knoph 1993).
  10. ^ Ray Charles and David Ritz, Brother Ray: Ray Charles’ Own Story, 175 (Dial Press, 1978).
  11. ^ "David 'Fathead' Newman dies at 75; jazz saxophonist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  12. ^ Feather, Leonard & Gitler, Ira The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz Oxford University Press US, 2007 ISBN 9780195320008
  13. ^ "Atlantic Album Discography, Part 2". Bsnpubs.com. October 6, 2005. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  14. ^ "Riverside Records Discography: 1960". Jazzdisco.org. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  15. ^ a b c "Prestige Records Catalog: 10100, 16000, 66000, 34000, MPP 2500, 11000 series". Jazzdisco.org. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 12, 2011. Retrieved January 21, 2009.
  17. ^ a b "Warner Brothers Album Discography, Part 7". Bsnpubs.com. June 25, 2004. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  18. ^ a b "Muse Records Listing". Jazzdiscography.com. Retrieved July 12, 2017.

External links[edit]