Gentle, soulful David Newman is gone. He died on Monday.Â
I was in band class and I had this music on my music stand but it was
upside down … He [Mr. Miller] knew I could barely read the music right side
up. He thumped me on the head and called me ‘Fathead.’ My classmates laughed.
After that, it became my trademark. I don’t consider it derogatory and it
doesn’t offend me. If someone asked me what I prefer to be called, it would be
David. But Fathead doesn’t bother me at all.
For the last year of his life, he kept on playing as long as he could despite the pancreatic cancer that finally slowed him. Often, he appeared with student musicians, whom he loved to teach and encourage. From my notes for one of his last CDs:Â
As he approaches his mid seventies, David Newman’s pace is not slower; he is merely moving toward different audiences. Like many jazz musicians, he tries to stay away from clubs, with their late hours and the smoke his doctor says he must avoid. The success of his CDs and of a film about Ray Charles put him in greater demand than ever. He is accepting concert offers, playing festivals and doing clinics.Â
At one of his concerts recently, his encore was a B-flat blues with a searing flute solo. He and the sixteen-piece band from Central Washington University rocked the hall and got a standing ovation. Newman smiled when I remarked on it later, then delivered what for him was an effusion of self-satisfaction. “Yes, I was very pleased with that,” he said