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The Blue Monk - Thursday, August 10, 2006
David "Fathead" Newman "Keeper of the Flame"


Entering his sixth decade as a performer, an effervescent 73 year old, multi-instrumentalist, with R&B roots, who studied music at Jarvis Christian College and mentored by fellow Texan the late saxophonist Buster Smith, was lured into the world of music.

Along the way he formed an enduring relationship with the late Ray Charles, Herbie Mann., and gained the respect of other jazz luminaries past and present.

In the basement of the Blue Monk jazz enthusiasts gather to hear David ‘Fathead' Newman's lyrical interpretations according to his own inner metronome, his articulations and subtle understated delivery. Every available table and chair is occupied, some of the devotees were seated in lotus position at the foot of the dais, a gesture of respect and humble appreciation.

The set began with an up tempo composition, tenor sax exploding, the rhythmic and harmonic tension is muscular, full of syncopation from a free flowing, propulsive rhythm section, that stands out whether soloing or fueling the interplay. Next came the sound of a completely unfettered flute, revealing an entire world of emotions, catchy riffs, infectious grooves, and a touch of retro-soul. His band mates telepathically attuned to his intoxicated freedom, a beautiful bassist weaves an energetic musical tapestry. Soul-stirring strings were like steady thumps of the heart, rhythm oozing from her pores. A spirited performance by the pianist, with a vibrating buoyancy; spice surrounding the notes, sculpting vibes in the music creating a musical journey of exploration and discovery.

The timekeeper back beating, telling a primitive story on the tom toms and striking the cymbal, adding color to the drum element, a wild mind bending insanity, that gives a voice to the deepest of human emotions.

A good melody has a calming effect on the mind. A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square is a soulful piece of music--performed by an emotional sax, it becomes elegant, hypnotic, an unadorned melodic masterpiece.

Reminiscent of the early 60's, a timeless tune from the late Ray Charles song book that holds fast to soul and plays a peripheral role in the mind, a smiling juke box, a couple swaying in unison, taking romance to a higher lever, before the bugle blows.

The A Train screaming underground on its way up to Harlem, blown fervently and aggressively as to add weight and power to the sound demands the listener's attention. A standing ovation lasted a full five minute. Shouts of "Encore, encore," and the players returned to the dais for one final moment.

Slowly the crowd vacated.



Copyright 2007, Jazz Society of Oregon