Title: Ray Charles Presents David Newman
Label: Speakers Corner
Although Ray Charles’ name is on the front of the sleeve and his piano is heard within, this album was a launch pad for the jazz talents of Newman, who had experience playing in Charles’ band and actually was a band member when this album was originally produced.
Fathead? A childhood thing. Issued and stuck when a childhood teacher saw Newman’s band music positioned upside down. Despite the fact that Newman had already memorised the piece and didn’t need the inscribed paper in the first place. Charles preferred “Brains”, which was nearer the truth.
Newman’s playing style spoke of clarity and simplicity. He was never a man to posture and preen in front of the microphone. Don’t doubt his power though, he had plenty of that but it was delivered with nuance. Charles loved Newman’s sax work on many of Charles’ classic outings such as I Got a Woman.
On this particular album, initially released in 1960, Newman plays both alto and tenor sax and, apart from Ray Charles, you’ll find baritone man Hank Crawford (known as Bennie here), Marcus Belgrave on trumpet plus bassist Edgar Willis and Milt Turner on drums.
Mastering is even, balanced yet spirited in nature. The mastering engineer evidently took his desk and pushed the levels. Not too far, but enough to squeeze everything from the players in front of him. There’s no need to push that amplifier too far to go hunting for a shy upright bass, for example. Everything is clear and on show.
On this album, Charles – let’s get him out of the way first – sounds, how can I put this, sure of himself. His style is definite. His work here is bold. There’s none of that delicacy, of fingers floating across keys. Charles is in the room.
Newman meanwhile is articulate. His bop-like tones can be complex but he never waves goodbye to the melody. That is obviously very important to him and, in many ways, Charles lies there as a back up because the latter will always interject some of the good stuff if Newman decides to fly off on a tangent.
In short? Nice. Very nice. It’s always good to hear artists doing what they do best and knowing that they’re confident in their work.
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