David Newman

Most people simply called David Newman, who died Jan. 20 at 75, "Fathead," a name dating back to high school years in his native Texas. He didn't consider it an insult. The moniker came from a band teacher who, after seeing Newman's music sheets sitting upside down on his stand, thumped him on the head and yelled, "Fathead!" Apparently, Newman preferred to learn music by ear.

The early encounter had little impact on Newman's career, which successfully spanned nearly five decades. Inspired by the sounds of bebop saxophonist Sonny Stitt, whose control of the instrument Newman called "superb," he became an...

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