Dr. Sais Kamalidiin runs a program in jazz flute at Howard University, and once a year he holds a public recital with a special guest artist. Last year, at this time, he brought Frank Wess down from New York. This year the guest was David "Fathead" Newman, who went on to appear at Twins lounge over the weekend, where he featured his fat-toned "Texas" tenor sound as well as his other horns. But on this Thursday afternoon he gave a rare, all-flute program. For those who braved the bitter cold to attend it was definitely worth the effort.
The program began with the Howard University group, three faculty members and three students. The students included three flutists, a bassist and a drummer. Faculty members included Dr. Kamalidiin, himself a fine flutist, who was joined by the excellent guitarist Gerard Kunkel and the chairman of the department, Dr Thomas Korth, who surprised everyone with his prowess at the keyboard, a role he has not played for thirty years simply, he claims, because no-one asked him. The group performed a fine arrangement of Oliver Nelson's Flute Salad with an equally fine solo from Sais. Dr. Kamalidiin then introduced David Newman who joined the group for The House of the Rising Sun, A Child is Born, Unchain My Heart, Newman's original Amandia and What a Wonderful World. At this point the flute choir left the stage and Newman played a set alone with the rhythm section, performing Delilah, Freddie Hubbard's Little Sunflower, Bag's Groove and two of his originals, The Gift and Cousin Esau.
Mr. Newman's flute work is remarkable both for its directness of expression and fullness of sound. Essentially self-taught, he has developed a sound with a rich, bell-like quality. He applies this to lines that reflect the musical seams he has mined over the last fifty years which include both bebop and R&B with several genres in between. On this occasion he was admirably supported by both the faculty members, with Kunkel and Korth providing excellent solos, and the students, with fine work from both Hayes and Hunter. The flute arrangements were well conceived by Dr. Kamalidiin and flawlessly executed by the ensemble.
If I could have made one suggestion, I would have had the student flutists come back for one grand finale. But this is quibbling. More to the point, I hope someone made a recording of the program because it was something for both the university and the guest artist to be proud of.