Dr. Saïs Kamalidiin is the Professor of Flute at Howard University in Washington D.C., part of a program that includes a great deal of emphasis on jazz performance. Once a year he holds a public recital with his students and 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 Flutes of Howard University, three faculty members and five students. The students included three flutists, Maya Colemon, Selamawit Abebe and Shyesha Osler, as well as bassist Hamilton Hayes and drummer McClenty Hunter. 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 claimed, because no-one asked him. The group performed a fine arrangement of Oliver Nelson's Flute Salad with an equally fine solo from Saïs and The House of the Rising Sun which featured Prof. Kunkel. Dr. Kamalidiin then introduced David Newman who joined the group for A Child is Born, Unchain My Heart, Newman's original Amandla 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, John Hick's Life and another Newman original 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.