David Fathead Newman & The Tilden Webb Trio – Cellar Groove – Cellar Live

by | Apr 11, 2014 | Jazz CD Reviews

David Fathead Newman & The Tilden Webb Trio – Cellar Groove – Cellar Live CL 090113, 60:18 (4/4/14) ****:

(David “Fathead” Newman – tenor, alto saxophone & flute; Tilden Webb – piano; Jodi Proznick – acoustic bass; Jessie Cahill – drums)

David “Fathead” Newman comes from that great tradition of Texas tenors who had a raw, tough, big-tone sound which was exemplified by the likes of Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, Buddy Johnson and Buddy Tate. Newman  spent some twelve years with Ray Charles and had quite an extensive discography,  but he may never have received the full recognition he deserved, because he continued to be thought of as an accompanist rather than a leader. In this re-release from Cellar Live records, originally recorded in 2004, shows that he had his own voice and could play with the best of them.

This live Newman session from the now-closed Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver BC, found him backed by a very sympathetic and in-the-groove trio lead by the impressive pianist Tilden Webb. A previous iteration of this outing was released in 2005 but with very limited distribution, and had a slightly different track list.The opening track is the title tune is ”Cellar Groove,” and is a rocker from the opening bars from Newman. It sets the tone for the balance of the album and gives Newman plenty of space to roam with the full support of the trio. Pianist Webb has a firm touch with a strong single-note style and fills in with great comping. Drummer Cahill offers some sparkling breaks as required. Newman’s own composition, “The Cookie,” follows, however he has forsaken the tenor sax in favour of the alto sax but with no diminution in his ability to express his ideas in a free-flowing style. Webb continues with his hard-driving piano and keeps the composition moving forward.

Hank Mobley was one of those tenor players in the Sonny Rollins tradition but  less exuberant and more laid-back. His tune “This I Dig Of You” is an ideal frame for Newman to show his expressive command of tone and texture. On the other Duke Pearson’s “Cristo Redentor” is played with economy and insight. Newman is back on alto and is completely at home in the upper register of the instrument. Webb shows he has a blues touch and a harmonically lyrical approach to the composition. Not unexpectedly the Dizzy Gillespie classic “A Night In Tunisia” opens with a Latin vibe, then turns into an up-tempo flight propelled by Cahill’s drumming and some blistering piano from Webb, coupled with Newman’s swirling tenor.

David “Fathead” Newman was seventy-one in the winter of 2004 when this was recorded and clearly demonstrated that he was still filled with curiosity and fluid expertise.

TrackList: Cellar Groove; The Cookie; Lady J; Hard Times; This I Dig Of You; Cristo Redentor; Roundabout; A Night In Tunisia; The Gift

—Pierre Giroux

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