Friday, January 30, 2009

Nik Bärtsch's Ronin "Stoa"

Repetition has a long, revered history in music, from many of the world's folk songs - particularly in Indian and Asian cultures - to the 20th Century classics of Phillip Glass, Wim Mertens and Steve Reich. In jazz, these musical patterns or compositions are referred to as "ostinato" - although since this music ends up sounding like funk or something criminally catchy or critically annoying, jazz never gives the music the respect it deserves.

Oddly, though, the repeating patterns of ostinato music often build an attractive, hypnotic feel that can inspire provocative improvisation - especially in the hands of someone who knows what to do with it. Ostinati is not about proving one's chops, showboating or personalities. It's about the music. Ostinati shows how musicians can work within a song, building the music like an intricate puzzle, mirroring or reflecting a theme, playing to patterns and even discovering alternatives that invert, subvert or illuminate the pattern.

No one understands this more or better than pianist and composer Nik Bärtsch (b. 1971, Zürich), who has devised a most wonderful disc with Stoa (2006), the first of his two ECM discs to date (he's issued several other Ronin discs on his own label prior to this). The title is Greek for covered walkways in ancient architecture meant for public usage. Or, as Bärtsch's notes succinctly and sufficiently state, these "pieces are spaces to be entered and inhabited." How beautiful is that?

This is his seventh (!) outing in what he calls "ritual groove music" and one could hardly argue or refute this. He further indicates that his music "draws its energy from the tension between compositional precision and the self-circumvention of improvisation." Indeed. It's a definitive concoction that straddles the emotions prevalent in both jazz and film music, which, lest we forget, also employs repetition for dramatic and emotional purposes (note Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut or John Frankenheimer's Ronin for brilliant and superb examples of the musical crossroads where one might find music like Stoa).

Nik Bärtsch's Ronin evinces a particularly tight quintet featuring the leader on piano (and sporadic Fender Rhodes in some background soundscapes), Sha on contrabass and bass clarinets, Björn Meyer on bass, Kaspar Rast on drums and Andi Pupato on percussion. The group elaborates effectively on Bärtsch compositions with such seemingly academic titles as "Modul 36" (the disc's best 15 minutes), "Modul 35" (the least convincing piece on display here), "Modul 32," "Modul 33" and "Modul 38_17" (an utterly intoxicating and excellent piece of chugging funk that sounds nothing like funk).

All of these pieces were apparently conceived while Bärtsch was briefly living in Japan, a lifelong dream of his. There is something of the mystery and the beauty of Japan in this material, but it never sounds specifically Japanese by any stretch of the imagination. It actually sounds like nothing less than pure imagination at work.

There is no sense of erudite predictability or Jarrett-like leanings that you'd assume would be typical of any piano-based ECM date either. This is very soulful music and even though I've just discovered it some three years after the fact, it will make many repeated visits to my CD player. It would have been my favorite disc of 2006 if I had heard it then. But it's the best thing I've heard since then.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rediscovery: Cedar Walton on Columbia

Pianist Cedar Walton has been a tremendous accompanist to scores of jazz soloists and singers. From the late 1960s on he's also actively recorded under his own name. This is due not only to his prowess as a perfect pianist for any occasion but his ability to expertly craft some of jazz's best and better-known themes. Walton's recording opportunities ramped up in the mid-1970s when he formed The Magic Triangle, a remarkable working group featuring tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan.

Around this time he was awarded (and accepted!) a contract with his first major label, RCA, where he recorded two forgotten fusion-oriented albums. As the 1970s progressed, Walton formed a neo-bop group he called Eastern Rebellion that found some success - especially in Europe - and in 1978 won his second (and final) major label contract with Columbia Records, where he recorded two notable, yet little-known albums, Animation (1978) and the even lesser-remembered Soundscapes (1980). Neither has ever shown up on CD, but both sound very much a part of the pianist's recorded legacy.

Whether it was intended or not, Animation has a tendency toward being slightly Latin. It makes for a pleasing consistency. But the album benefits most from the small group Walton's assembled with Bob Berg (also from Eastern Rebellion) on tenor sax, Steve Turre on trombone, Tony Dumas on bass, Buddy Williams or Al Foster on drums and (the probably overdubbed and almost unnecessary) Paulinho da Costa on percussion.

Despite any preconceptions, this tinny-sounding recording remains firmly rooted within the jazz camp. While Berg gets the lion's share of solos here, after Walton of course, the bassist and the drummers get much of the credit - or, depending on your point of view, the blame - for the infectious groove that's laid down here. It's not quite disco. But it's not exactly bebop either. They weren't dumbing down the sound as much as trying to make it more palatable (cooler?) than they would if they were recording this stuff for the Steeplechase or Muse labels, where Walton recorded before and after these sets.

Walton himself arranges the record with a panache that convinces the listener that a bigger band's at play. But he shines the spotlight on himself for some keyboard work that is well worth hearing. He's mostly on electric piano here, but keeps the acoustic keyboard in the forefront of "Charmed Circle," "Precious Mountain" and "March of the Fishman" (he overdubs the electric piano for "Another Star" and "Ala Eduardo" but uses the acoustic piano to help lay the rhythm down).

Walton is no hack on the electric keyboard - quite the opposite in fact - but he never really develops the personality others provided to the instrument during its heyday. He resembles Dave Grusin a bit on "Jacob's Ladder" and Bob James on "Another Star." But these are just turns of phrase. He does tend to develop ideas and ascend the hill a bit further than either one of those pianists ever has.

The program consists mostly of Walton compositions, with the at-the-time requisite Stevie Wonder cover (the better-than-average cover of "Another Star") and bassist Tony Dumas' very Walton-like "If It Could Happen" (which features Dumas' only solo on the record).

Unless Walton changed the name of these tunes somewhere along the way, only "Jacob's Ladder" and "Precious Mountain," which both show up on Walton's 1995 Eastern Rebellion disc Just One Of Those Nights At The Village Vanguard (MusicMasters), maintained any kind of place in the pianist's playlists. Highlights here are bountiful and all in the middle of the record: "Jacob's Ladder," "Charmed Circle," "Another Star" (yes, "Another Star"), "Precious Mountain" and "March of the Fishman."

The little-known Soundscapes, which followed shortly after Animation, maintains the same basic group as before but, rather significantly, adds Emanuel Boyd's flute on five of the LP's six pieces (he also solos on "Latin America" and "Naturally") and an additional percussionist, Rubins (sic) Bassini on four cuts. The flute, coupled with Bob Berg's tenor and Steve Turre's trombone, adds something special to many of the album's melodies.

A further attempt at crossing over is also particularly evident on Soundscapes with the addition of strings on the only three pieces where Walton mans the electric piano ("Warm To The Touch," "N.P.S." and "Sixth Avenue"). The lead cut, "Warm To The Touch," also features a (typically strange) vocal by Leon Thomas - though you would never know it by reading the back cover of the album - and background vocalists and catches bassist Tony Dumas, who pounds the electric bass throughout the rest of the LP, taking a beautiful solo on the upright bass here. Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard adds a bit of class to the LP's second cut, "The Early Generation," but unfortunately figures nowhere else on the record.

Again, Walton's talent for light-as-air arrangements comes to the fore here. They are tastefully simple and playfully clever, often even undeniably catchy. They do well to highlight his remarkable playing and that of the others too. Walton's solos are impeccable - as always - though he does seem to suggest more "popular" pianists on several occasions: he sounds like Bob James on "Sixth Avenue" and, remarkably even like Ramsey Lewis on Tony Dumas' very Larry Dunn-sounding "Naturally." Other soloists get their say too. Bob Berg gets the most notable solo space on the record (five titles), though he is firmly rooted in Michael Brecker territory here. Trombonist Turre even takes a couple of nice solos worth noting ("Warm To The Touch" and "Sixth Avenue").

The program seems to suggest a can't-lose line-up of strong melodies that should have had some impact - but didn't. "Warm To The Touch" isn't exactly radio-friendly, but really comes to life when the instrumentalists have their say. "N.P.S." - which sounds like something well known that can't be placed (and which Walton also covered on his 2001 CD The Promise Land) - is one of the album's highlights. So is "Latin America" - another of Walton's Latinesque numbers, which the composer also covered on his 2002 CD Latin Tinge (also featuring Ray Mantilla) - and "Sixth Avenue," which Walton has recorded quite a few times since this. However, each of the songs, each over five minutes in length (something jazz people like), seem to go on too long. Maybe the solos could have been shorter. Maybe Walton could have featured less soloists on each piece. Who knows. Each song starts off interestingly enough but after the first solo, the idea just seems to have run its course (particularly true of "Naturally").

But in any event, it's tremendously exciting to hear Cedar Walton in a more electric bag than he's known to be elsewhere. He recorded on a horridly prehistoric electric piano for a few of his early Prestige sides, and of course during his also little-known RCA albums, but was never heard electrically again after these two Columbia dates. For that reason alone, Cedar Walton's Columbia dates are notable. However, the real joy of these records - as imperfectly as they may have been recorded - is hearing Cedar Walton's too-little celebrated genius for impeccable arrangements. One listen to these two records is to hear a master generating a big sound out of a small band.

Update: Soul Brother Records issued a CD compiling Cedar Walton's Animation and Soundscapes in July 2010.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rediscovery: Freddie Hubbard "Mistral"

Freddie Hubbard waxed many high-caliber yet shamefully forgotten records for Columbia from 1974 to 1979. Remarkably, none of them sold particularly well - which is why he was dropped by the label in 1980 - and today, too few are to be found on CD. Mistral, recorded in September 1980, is the first studio album the trumpeter recorded after leaving Columbia and in many ways continues heading down the path he charted while there. Maybe that's why this excellent album is also a footnote buried deep in the trumpeter's legacy. It's never been issued on CD either.

Recorded for the Japanese label East World (and later issued in the US by Liberty, an EMI label hardly known for issuing jazz), there is a slick West Coast feeling to this album that's as endearing as it is enjoyable. Perhaps it is the addition of legendary West Coast alto saxist Art Pepper into a mix that finds pianist George Cables, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Peter Erskine in the rhythm section. All the tunes have a relaxed, laid-back feeling (what Scott Yanow snidely refers to as "no one sounds like they're sweating"), even on the up-tempo "Bring It Back Home." While there is a casual air of familiarity in the program, all involved sound as if they are enjoying themselves and each other's company.

Hubbard has never sounded better. His playing is confident, definitive, nearly poetic, and his engagements aren't limited merely to Pepper, who seems to be just another guy in the band here. Hubbard is musically caressed by the pianist, his old comrade George Cables, but is more notably poked, prodded and provoked by bassist Stanley Clarke, who is simply outstanding here, doing things throughout that are worth paying attention to.

The album opens with Clarke's pretty "Sunshine Lady," a prototypical fusion number, circa 1980, which probably leads most people to wrongly assume the rest of the album is going to go this way. While this track was probably devised to capture radio airplay, it's not what the rest of the record is all about or where the album takes you.

Hubbard contributes three originals ("Eclipse," "Now I've Found Love" and "Bring It Back Home") to the program while the group waxes an original apiece from Cables and Clarke and covers Cole Porter's "I Love You." George Cables' evocative minor-keyed Latinate-light "Blue Nights" is one of the album's highlights, showcasing beautiful turns by Hubbard, Cables, Pepper and, most notably, an especially melodic solo from Clarke.

Another highlight is Hubbard's funky "Bring It Back Home," which surprisingly never caught on. It's one of his trademark jam themes (and a perfectly structured set closer) that provides a palette for inspired improvisation. In this case, Hubbard, Pepper, trombonist Phil Ranelin, Cables and Erskine/Clarke all get a shot and solo beautifully.

Hubbard's acoustic ballad "Eclipse" is another one of his features that surprisingly never caught on. Very much in the "Maiden Voyage" tradition, this number features particularly lovely turns by Pepper, Cable, Clarke (suggesting a whole history of Hubbard appearances) and Hubbard himself on flugelhorn.

From here, Hubbard would head toward more traditional straight-ahead, neo-bop type recordings - "real jazz" - even repudiating his commercial albums like Mistral as "not clean" (see the notes to Hubbard's Outpost, recorded only six months after this record). That's pure tosh. There is much great music on these records, and much great Hubbard to hear, especially on Mistral.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

David Newman Plays Fathead

The late David "Fathead" Newman provided prolific evidence of soulful inventiveness throughout his six-decade recording career. But while he always sounded good in any groove, he was always at his best on his own pieces.

Fathead's songs, I've always contended, are the best part of any Fathead album. Quite often, they're swampy blues grooves; simply constructed pieces with easy changes that allow for a truly soulful player like Fathead to expound to his heart's content and always remain endearing and entrancing.

I hesitate to refer to these songs as pieces or compositions. That sounds too formal for the pure, heartfelt exposition that Fathead brings to his own music. But they're better than mere riffs or on-the-spur inventions. Like the best music, there is something catchy and memorable about Fathead's music; something special and notable that's worth proper credit.

Unfortunately, there was never a full album devoted to Fathead's own music. But in this iTunes/iPod generation, it's easy enough to piece together an excellent set of Fathead originals. This list may not cover every Fathead composition or album. But there is something special in these pieces worth collecting and appreciating - often.

Fathead (1958)-1: The classic "Fathead," later called "Shana" on 1982's Still Hard Times and "Chenya" on 1988's Fire! Live At The Village Vanguard, is the sole original here. Lee Morgan also wrote a song with this title for a 1967 Blue Note album with Newman issued later as Sonic Boom. Fathead played this album's first track, Paul Mitchell's "Hard Times," throughout his career, also recording it on Fire! Live At The Village Vanguard (1987), Return To The Wide Open Spaces (1990), Jimmy McGriff's Feelin' It (2000) and as "Still Hard" from Front Money (1977) and "Still Hard Times" from the 1982 album of the same name.

Straight Ahead (1960)-4: Four very good and little known jazz-blues with legendary Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Charlie Persip (drums): "Batista's Groove," "Night Of Nisan," "Cousin Slim" and "Congo Chant."

Fathead Comes On (1961)-4: Just "Dave Newman" here, includes "Alto Sauce," later re-titled "Little Sonny's Tune" on The Gift (2002), "Hello There," later re-titled "Off The Hook" also on The Gift, "Scufflin'" and "Esther's Melody." Two other songs here also show up on The Gift.

House Of David (1967)-3: "Little Sister," later re-titled "Ksue" on The Gift (2002), "House Of David" and "Blue New."

Bigger & Better (1968)-1: "The Thirteenth Floor," a hypnotizing blues, also heard on Return To The Wide Open Spaces (1990) and Roy Hargrove's Family (1995) featuring Newman.

The Many Facets Of David Newman (1968)-3: "Shiloh," revised in 2005 as "Flankin'" on Cityscape, "Headstart" and "Chained No More."

Captain Buckles (1970)-4: Truly the funkiest album Fathead ever made - and certainly one of his best. Includes "Captain Buckles," revised in 2003 as "Fast Lane" on Song For The New Man, "Joel's Domain" (written for producer Joel Dorn), "The Clincher" and "Negus."

The Weapon (1972)-1: The funky "Missy."

Newmanism (1974)-3: One of Newman's best and most distinctive albums - and the second following Lonely Avenue (1972) featuring vibes master Roy Ayers, his star clearly in the ascendant at the time - includes Newman originals "Baby Rae," a blues very much in the Ray Charles "Genius After Hours" mode that pre-dates Newman's later "For Buster" (from Heads Up), "Newmanism" and "Brandy."

Mr. Fathead (1976)-2: Newman's first album away from Atlantic Records (on Warner Bros.), contains the funky "Mashooganah" (featuring Fathead on tenor - and the first hint of his love of the "Goldfinger" theme - check out "Sun Seeds" from Concrete Jungle and the actual theme on Cityscape) and the well-done disco number "Ebo Man" (featuring Fathead on flute), composed with keyboardist Arthur Jenkins. Both are fun, but not exactly first-tier Fathead.

Front Money (1977)-2: A terrific album from a weird period in jazz features "Sneakin' In," later revisited on Cityscape (2005), and "Still Hard," a newly-titled version of "Hard Times," from Fathead (1958). Two other songs from Front Money also resurfaced on Cityscape.

Keep The Dream Alive (1977)-2: "Keep The Dream Alive" and the rather over-promising "Freaky Beat," a Newman collaboration with album arranger/co-producer, William Fischer (who had worked with Newman on two of his albums from the 1960s, Bigger & Better and The Many Facets Of David Newman). The title track was issued as a 12-inch dance single backed with Newman's version of "Clouds," which producer Orrin Keepnews also produced for Cannonball Adderley on the famed 1962 album Cannonball's Bossa Nova.

Scratch My Back (1979): Newman shares four co-writing credits here with Jay Fleecewood, a pseudonym for the album's arranger/co-producer William Fischer. All four tunes are straight disco with the first three dominated by pointless vocals. None are memorable and Fathead never bothered with any of these again.

Resurgence! (1980)-2: "Mama Lou," revived on 2007's Diamondhead and "Davey Blue," debuted by Newman on The Family of Mann's album First Light (1974) and revived on Newman's 2001 HighNote album of the same name.

Still Hard Times (1982)-1: This album was originally intended to be a Ray Charles reunion band but ended up featuring two remakes from Newman's 1958 debut, Fathead and only that album's arranger, Hank Crawford: "Shana" (the first of Newman's Yiddish-based titles - this one means "pretty"), a newly titled version of "Fathead," and "Still Hard Times," a re-titling of Paul Mitchell's "Hard Times."

Heads Up (1986)-2: "Heads Up," one of the better puns on the nickname, gets a rousing blues swagger here and on Bluesiana Triangle (1990) and "For Buster," which is slightly reminiscent of "Baby Rae" from 1974's Newmanism.

Fire! Live At The Village Vanguard (1988)-1: Features David Newman (no Fathead here) with Stanley Turrentine and Hank Crawford. "Chenya" revisits "Fathead" (from 1958's Fathead), also known as "Shana" (from 1982's Still Hard Times).

Blue Head (1989)-1: A tremendous pairing of David Newman with the late, great Clifford Jordan, heard here on Newman's deep, bluesy "Blue Head," which later turned up as the title track to Under A Woodstock Moon (1996).

Return To The Wide Open Spaces (1990)-1: The excellent "13th Floor," with Newman in fine fettle aided by the especially funky undercurrent of Ellis Marsalis, Cornell Dupree and Chuck Rainey in the rhythm section.

Under A Woodstock Moon (1996)-2: Worth it for "Amandla" alone, a lovely Caribbean-styled feature with Fathead on tenor and superb solos by Bryan Carrott (vibes) and David Leonhardt (piano). Fathead revisits the song on flute rather than tenor on Davey Blue (2001). Newman's bluesy title track revisits the marvelous "Blue Head," also the title track to the 1990 album.

Chillin' (1998)-2: "The Whole Tzimmes," which suggests "Fire Weaver," the Roy Ayers composition on Newman's 1972 album Lonely Avenue, "Chillin'."

Keep The Spirits Singing (2000)-2: "Cousin Esau," which first appeared on a 1994 Don Braden album featuring Fathead and showed up again on a 2004 Tilden Webb album featuring Fathead, reworks "Montana Banana" from Blue Greens & Blues (1990) and Bluesiana II (1991). This reminds me of a tougher version of Pat Rebillot's "Song For The New Man." John Hicks solos magisterially here. Also, "Karen My Love," which was written for Fathead's wife and manager and, sadly now, his widow, suggests to me a fascinating cross between "Feelings" and "Lover Man." Newman played O'Donel Levy's title song with Herbie Mann on the flautist's 1985 album See Through Spirits and John Hicks' "Life," also heard here, turned out to be a tribute to the pianist who died in 2006 on Fathead's Life (2007).

Davey Blue (2001)-3: A CD I don't have but probably should. Includes "For Stanley" (a Newman tribute to fellow saxist Stanley Turrentine), "Amandla," previously heard on Under A Woodstock Moon (1996), and the title track, which reaches back to Resurgence! (1980).

The Gift (2002)-4: This CD revives four tracks from Newman's Fathead Comes On (1961), including two by Newman: "Off The Hook," which revives "Hello There," and "Little Sonny's Tune," which revives "Alto Sauce." Also here are "The Gift" and "Ksue," named for Newman's wife, which revives "Little Sister" from House Of David (1967).

Song For The New Man (2003)-2: "Fast Lane" re-titles "Captain Buckles," from the 1970 album and "Lonesome Head," first heard on a 1994 Winard Harper album featuring Fathead and re-titled "My Full House" on 2007's Diamondhead. Newman first covered Pat Rebillot's title song on 1974's Newmanism.

Cityscape (2005)-2: This excellent CD revives three tracks from Newman's underrated Front Money (1977), "Pharoah's Gold," "Suki Duki" and Newman's own "Sneakin' In." Also here is Newman's "Flankin," which revives "Shiloh" from The Many Facets Of David Newman (1968).

Diamondhead (2007)-3: "Diamondhead," a "Listen Here" style groove that pays tribute to fellow saxist Eddie Harris, "My Full House," a newly titled version of "Lonesome Head," last heard on Song For The New Man (2003, also with Curtis Fuller) and "Mama Lou," first heard on Resurgence! (1980, also with Cedar Walton).

Also: "Duffin' Around" and "More Head" from Brother Jack McDuff/David Newman's Double Barrelled Soul (1967), "Turning Point" from Junior Mance's Live At The Top (1968), "Need To Be Loved" (with Art Blakey and Dr. John) on Bluesiana Triangle (1990), "McGriffin'" from Jimmy McGriff's The Dream Team (1996) and "Straight Up" from Jimmy McGriff's Straight Up (1998).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

David "Fathead" Newman - RIP

My musical tastes often find me going through phases where I become obsessive about a particular artist. Recently I have been obsessing over pianists John Hicks and Alice Coltrane (also an organist and harpist). One of my other recent obsessions is Freddie Hubbard. Inspired by the recent (Japanese) CD release of the trumpeter's 1979 album The Love Connection (Columbia), I was revisiting Hubbard's many other LP and CD treasures in my collection. Then word comes that Freddie Hubbard died on December 29.

Now, spurned by a review I wrote of David Newman's recent Diamondhead (HighNote), I've also been recently revisiting my voluminous Fathead collection - even picking up out-of-print CDs I passed on years ago (Return To The Wide Open Spaces, Bluesiana Triangle, Bluesiana II and Under A Woodstock Moon) to bask anew in the joy of his playing. Then comes word today that tenor great David "Fathead" Newman passed away at the age of 75 on January 20, 2009, following a bout with pancreatic cancer.

What's saddest to me about this is that there is always something so life-affirming and joyful in Fathead's music, in any bag, on any instrument. It's hard to fathom that beautiful sound silenced forever. Strangely, Newman's death comes only days after the January 15 death of Leroy "Hog" Cooper, Newman's fellow bandmate in the Ray Charles band (special thanks to Cooper's friend and biographer, Susan Cross, for this sad news).

David Newman was born February 24, 1933 in Corsicana, Texas, later moving to Dallas, where he grew up. He earned his seemingly unflattering nickname from a music teacher who chided the young player for always hitting the wrong notes. Somehow, he got over that, joining Ray Charles's band in 1952 as a baritone saxist. He later switched to tenor sax, for which he developed one of the most distinctive tones known to jazz. He also played alto sax and flute with equal distinction. Newman stayed with Ray Charles for the next 14 years, but began his own solo career in 1960 with his debut album Fathead (Atlantic).

After leaving Charles, Newman started doing a lot of session work, appearing on albums by Aretha Franklin, King Curtis and many others, and devoting more time to his solo career. He also joined Herbie Mann's band in the early 1970s, while he turned out a number of excellent Atlantic albums under his own name.

My first exposure to David Newman was when I happened to pick up his 1971 album Captain Buckles (Cotillion) for two dollars at a used record store in 1985. It startled me then and remains to this day my very favorite of his many records. The album features a higher-than-usual number of Newman originals (always the best part of a Fathead record - "Captain Buckles," "Joel's Domain," "The Clincher" and "Negus"), a first-rate line-up of soul-jazz musicians (Blue Mitchell, Eric Gale and Bernard Purdie) and an expert sampling of Fathead on tenor, alto and flute.

While none of Newman's other Atlantics (1960-74 and two from the late 1980s) are as superb as Captain Buckles, all are consistently good with at least a few notable examples of intoxicating musicianship, catchy songs or that generally soulful beauty that Fathead brought to every occasion.

Fortunately, David Newman recorded prolifically and the CD age has been pretty good to him too. Additional Fathead highlights include the funky Front Money (1977, which has been issued on a Collectables disc with Captain Buckles), the straight-ahead Resurgence! (1980) (perfectly coupled with 1982's Still Hard Times on the 32 Jazz CD Lonestar Legend) and nearly all of his nine HighNote CDs since 1999, most notably Keep The Spirits Singing (2001), Song For The New Man (2004), Cityscape (2006) and the most recent, Diamondhead (2008).

I also recommend Fathead's wonderfully intoxicating sparring with Herbie Mann on the flautist's Mississippi Gambler (Atlantic/1972) and his many appearances with the recently deceased organist Jimmy McGriff, particularly the Newman compositions on the organist's 1997 CD The Dream Team (the excellent "McGriffin'") and 1998's Straight Up ("Straight Up" and "Brother Griff").