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Published: Wednesday, 3/19/2003

Saxman keeps breaking new ground

BY STEVEN CORNELIUS
BLADE MUSIC CRITIC
Jazz saxophonist David `Fathead' Newman performs tomorrow at Murphy's Place.

Jazz saxophonist David `Fathead' Newman performs tomorrow at Murphy's Place.
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The eclectic 70-year-old jazz saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman, who performs tomorrow night at Murphy's Place, continues to search out new musical landscapes.

“You want to be true to your fans and listeners, to the people who enjoy your style of music. But you also want to experiment with new territory, to try to stay current,” he said last week from his home in Woodstock, N.Y.

“I always have the desire to stay on top of the situation and do some things that haven't been done before. It's a plus and a blessing to be able to wear more than one hat and be able to play other forms of music.

“I work in a lot of styles but consider myself a contemporary straight-ahead jazz artist. I grew up in the bebop era but you couldn't earn a living playing bebop. What was desired were the sounds of the big bands and swing, of blues, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll,” he said.

Newman found a way to follow both the market and his muse. In 1954, after a stint working for saxophonist Henry “Buster” Smith, he joined the band of the up-and-coming young rhythm and blues singer Ray Charles.

Newman stayed in the band for 10 years. Along the way, he was also developing his career as a bandleader. Charles' support was instrumental in that push.

In 1959, Newman released Fathead: Ray Charles Presents “Fathead” on the Atlantic Records label. It was Newman's first album as a leader. Thirty-four more discs, many breaking new musical ground, followed.

Despite the ongoing search for new sounds, Newman says his most requested song remains “Hard Times,” a tune from the 1959 album.

“It's kind of my signature tune,” Newman said.

And it's still fresh after four decades?

You bet, he said. “It's like any other classic; it goes on from year to year. This tune is one of the things that I am known for.”

Newman's recent album, The Gift, came out this year on High Note Records.

Newman said that tomorrow's performances will feature music from the 1950s to the present, including music from The Gift.

David “Fathead” Newman will join pianist Claude Black and bassist Clifford Murphy in 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. performances tomorrow at Murphy's Place, 151 Water St. Tickets are $15, $12 for Toledo Jazz Society members. Information: 419-241-7732.



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