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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Welcome to Straight No Chaser, the Award-winning Podcast hosted by Jeffrey Siegel

Sep 25, 2009

One of the more interesting acts playing this weekend’s free portion of the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival in Boston is percussionist Yoron Israel’s tribute to his friend and musical mentor, the late David “Fathead” Newman. For much of the last decade, Israel anchored his touring bands, and recorded three CDs with him. Newman, a legendary saxophonist/flutist and composer, was a prominent member of the Ray Charles band in the fifties and sixties and a renowned bandleader in his own right thereafter. He passed away on January 20, 2009 at age 75.

Israel will hit the stage at around 3:00 in Boston, leading a large ensemble, including the always exciting Curtis Fuller (trombone), Howard Johnson (baritone saxophone), Bill Easley (flute, tenor, and alto saxophones), Dave Leonhardt (piano), and John Menegon (bass). 

Israel, Chicago born and now residing in Brockton, MA, is assistant chairman of percussion at Berklee College of Music in Boston. I got the chance to talk to him about his work with “Fathead”, his role as bandleader and educator, and about the many musicians with whom he has recorded. Click here to listen to Podcast 161, which features the interview and music Yoron Israel has had a part in, including:

David “Fathead” Newman – “Here Comes Sonny Man" from Cityscape. This is the band that Yoron had in mind when he put together the tribute: Newman on sax and flute, Winston Byrd on trumpet, Howard Johnson on Baritone Sax, Benny Powel on Trombone, David Leonhardt on Piano, John Menegon on Bass and Yoron on Drums.

Kenny Burrell – “I’m Falling for You“ from Lotus Blossom.  The first of many great guitar players with whom Israel has made great music, this 1995 release has Burrell playing in a number of different settings. Here is one of the trio recordings, with Ray Drummond on bass and Israel on drums.

Mark Elf – “ Blues“ from Trickynometry. Incredibly underrated,  Elf  has played with all the greats as a sideman ,Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Benny Golson and the Marsalis Brothers to name a few. This Elf tune was later covered by Jimmy Smith on one of his final studio CDs.

Abbey Lincoln – “Wholly Earth “ from Music is the Magic. Considering Ms. Lincoln recorded with (and married) Max Roach, being asked to sit in as her drummer is quite a compliment. Recorded live at Sweet Basil in New York City in 1993, the trio backing Ms. Lincoln on her composition are Rodney Kendrick on piano, Michael Bowie on bass and Yoron Israel on drums. Catch his solo on this showstopping finale.

Kenny Burrell - "Soul Eyes" from Guiding Spirit. A different Burrell quartet featuring Yoron's "musical big brother" Jay Hoggard, the pride of Wesleyan University on vibes, Burrell on guitar, Marcus McLaurine on bass and Israel on drums.

David “Fathead” Newman – “I Can’t Get Started “ from Life. Newman was more than just Ray Charles’ main horn man – he was capable of playing in so many different idioms, and was as accomplished on flute as he was on saxophone. Here he tackles a Gershwin tune, with Peter Bernstein (guitar), Steve Nelson (vibraphone), John Menegon (double bass), and Israel (drums) backing him up.