In the realm of soul and jazz music, the name Floyd Newman stands tall as a legendary figure. As a versatile saxophonist, Newman played an instrumental role in shaping the sound of numerous iconic recordings during the golden era of soul music. Born on August 17, 1931 in Nashville, Tennessee, Newman developed a deep affinity for music at an early age and dedicated himself to mastering the saxophone.
Newman’s big break came when he joined the renowned Stax Records house band, the “Mar-Keys.” As the primary saxophonist for the Mar-Keys, he left an indelible mark on the music scene with his signature blend of soulful melodies and impeccable technique. His memorable saxophone solos graced numerous Stax recordings, including hits by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Booker T. & the M.G.’s.
Newman’s playing style was characterized by a unique combination of rich tones, expressive phrasing, and a deep sense of groove. His ability to infuse soul and jazz into his performances made him a sought-after session musician in the 1960s and ’70s. Beyond the tenor sax, he effortlessly switched between alto and baritone saxophones, showcasing his versatility and command over different registers.
Floyd Newman’s contributions to the saxophone world were groundbreaking. His soulful approach to the instrument helped redefine its role in popular music. His melodic improvisations and distinctive sound inspired a generation of saxophonists, shaping the direction of soul, jazz, and rhythm and blues genres. His influence can be heard in the playing styles of artists such as Junior Walker, Maceo Parker, and David Sanborn.
While Newman’s active recording career tapered off in the late 1970s, he continued to perform live and contribute to the music scene as a revered elder statesman of soul and jazz. His impact on the saxophone community is immeasurable, leaving a lasting legacy that continues to resonate with aspiring saxophonists worldwide. Floyd Newman passed away on May 23, 2023.
Page last updated 6/4/2023.