Wednesday, April 19, 2017

James Clay & David "Fathead" Newman - The Sound of the Wide Oen Spaces

Cannonball Adderley was invaluable to the small Riverside jazz record label. The alto saxophonist was one of Riverside's top-selling artists, but also worked as a talent scout and producer. This was the first album he produced for the label; it featured two "Texas tenors," the up-and-coming David "Fathead" Newman and the then-unknown James Clay. The rhythm section is a typical one for Riverside: Wynton Kelly on piano, bassist Sam Jones, and Art Taylor on drums.

 The term "Texas tenor" is a stylistic description as well as a geographical one. The idea of the Texas-born, aggressive, hard-toned, bluesy tenor player goes back at least to Herschel Evans' tenure in the Count Basie band; later players so typecast included Buddy Tate, Illinois Jacquet, and Arnett Cobb. Newman and Clay represented the new generation of Texas tenors. Newman was already making a name for himself with the Ray Charles band when this album was recorded in 1960, and his playing sounds mature and assured. James Clay, who was only 24, sounds a little raw here, with a few reed squeaks along the way. Clay doubles on flute on "What's New," and he's quite accomplished on the smaller instrument. Here's the long blues "Wide Open Spaces"; Newman is the first soloist.


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