The requisite elements for success in the music industry -- perennial touring and composing and recording music -- have been a way of life to jazz legend David "Fathead" Newman for nearly half a century.
With an acclaimed new album in tow, and a new perspective on his music, the veteran tenor saxophonist sounds better than ever, and on Tuesday, April 13, Newman and his quartet will perform selections from their eclectic, jazzy repertoire at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
"I've recorded so many songs over the years that I think I've recorded some of them twice," joked Newman, who says his recent sets draw heavily from his newest release, Song for the New Man. The album, which displays Newman's keen awareness of dynamics and mood, moves smoothly from the hard-bop of Charlie Parker's classic "Visa" to reflective treatments of several standards, including "When I Fall in Love." Listening to the album repeatedly, one gets the sense that Newman is actually telling the story of his life.
"When you're young, you don't always see the importance in the music you play," said Newman, "Jazz and blues are some of America's most important contributions to the arts, and they are so important to who I am."
Growing up in Dallas, Texas, in the1930s and 1940s, Newman was exposed to the legendary Southern blues sounds of the Texas Tenors, including Buster Smith (Charlie Parker's mentor), who Newman cites as a major influence on the sax.
"Coming from Texas, I was surrounded by the blues; you couldn't help but play the blues if you wanted to make a living there," he said.
Newman hit the road after high school, touring throughout the South and eventually attracting the attention of Ray Charles. Following his first recorded album as a bandleader in 1959, Newman's career and subsequent legacy as a star jazz soloist were well in the making. After making albums of his own for over 40 years, Newman still inspires as much respect from other musicians as he does from his devoted fans.
"It's rewarding to hear how I've influenced younger players, and it's good to know that I'm leaving a legacy," said Newman, "but I'm not going away any time soon."
At 70, the veteran performer and composer infuses his music with a vibrant spirit that belies his age. On "Fast Lane," a propulsive, self-penned bopper from his new album, Newman's big-toned phrasing and blistering solos indicate that the sax legend is still on top of his game.
"I still practice the way I always have, just to keep my fingers limber," said Newman, but the secret to his success may be the inclusive spirit of jazz itself and the musical dialogue in which its artists have always engaged.
"I listen to the new artists and I still love the old ones; there's so much influence that comes from both," he said. "It's good to understand the past as well as the present."
-- Joe Kuzma
KCME 88.7 FM presents David "Fathead" Newman
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.
Tuesday, April 13 at 7 p.m.
$20, $12 for students