Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

Friday, January 13, 2017

Downtown Music Gallery Performance (Sunday, January 15, 2017)

I'll be performing solo this Sunday, January 15, 2017, at the Downtown Music Gallery. It will be a  double-bill with Finnish alto saxist Mikko Innanen (shown in picture) who will also be performing solo. Showtime is at 6:00 PM. Here are the address and phone number: 13 Monrow Street, New York, NY 10002 (212) 473 -0043

If you're not familiar with the DMG, here's a little background information from Wikipedia about this fascinating experimental music oasis:

"Downtown Music Gallery is a long-running internationally known record store, mail-order, and performance space, inNew York City, specializing in "Downtown Music", a recognized catchphrase for avant-garde jazz and contemporary composition, experimental, and improvisational music from around the world. It was founded in 1991, originally at 211 East 5th street for the first ten years of its existence, followed by seven years at 342 Bowery. It is currently located in Two Bridge, Manhattan at 13 Monroe St. Bruce Lee Gallanter, the founder, and Emanuel 'MannyLunch' Maris, formerly the owner of Lunch For Your Ears, run the shop. The store also devotes an entire 700-CD display to John Zorn'sTzadik label, as it also operates the mail-fulfillment for the label. DMG features in-store live performances for free every Sunday night, and on other nights for special occasions. DMG also provides the telephone information service for The Stone performance space, founded 2005."

Below is a picture of one of the performances from their music series.

Soprano saxophonist Gianni Mimmo and violinist Alison Blunt performing at the Downtown Music Gallery.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

"Day Two of My Soprano Search" (Originally posted on Facebook on January 10, 2017)

I started off with a visit to Yamaha Artist Services on 5th Ave. It wasn't a very fruitful experience. In their defense, they were gearing up for the 2017 NAMM show at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California from January 19 - 22, so they did not have any of their prized horns available. I actually wish I could attend, but that’s the first week of my spring semester at LIU Brooklyn. 
But their representative informed me that they probably wouldn't have their showroom ready to show me anything for another month. It looked a little like a ghost town in there. So, unfortunately, it doesn't look like Yamaha is in my future. But you never know.
So then I went to Roberto's Winds on W.46th Street and tried the Selmer Series III sopranos. They are very good horns. I loved the action and the mechanics. The sound was good, but not particularly ear grabbing. In Selmer’s defense, what makes them special is that the sound is not as built in, which can often be the case with Yamahas and Yanagisawas. So there is more room to personalize them, which, unfortunately, takes time. And I have reminded myself that these are instruments, not reeds, so it's not always going to be an immediate love affair. You have to sit with it for a week or two, or longer to figure it subtle nuances. But if I had to play the Selmer Series III for the rest of my career, I would not be unhappy. 
I then tried the RW-Pro Series One-Piece Soprano (Antique) and I liked it very much. As I discussed with Roberto, his horns don't have the mechanical sophistication of the Selmers, Yamahas, and Yanagisawas, but they certainly hold their own in terms of having a full-bodied sound and great intonation. His sopranos are actually more in tune than my old YSS 62. Now it could be my set-up, too. As he explained to me, his horns use a better grade of metal than the average modern horn. His horns are comparable to the Theo Wanne’s in that they have an old school rawness and bigness of sound, but are a little more challenging to maneuver. This is not as much the case with the Theo Wanne horns.

My day concluded at the Julliard School on 65th Street, where I went to meet with saxophonist Bruce Williams, a longtime Yanagisawa endorser who was gracious enough to let me check out his silver Yanagisawa soprano, which I'm looking forward to digging into tomorrow. 
And as an extra surprise, I ran into bassist Ben Wolfe, a Juilliard faculty member, and my old Purchase College classmate saxophonist Sam Dillion. So as rapper Ice Cube said, "It Was a Good Day." The search continues. 

Stay tuned tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Playing Monk and Ellington: The Art of Less

Here's a little Monk/Ellington suite that I recorded at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for their 2013 New Music Festival. This concert is a good study because it proves the point the less is more--or at least shows you how "less" allows you to make a more concise and definitive statement.

For example, this performance is 18:55 in length, but I managed to touch on six different pieces in this limited amount of time. This is one of the reasons why there are few dead spots. Dead spots are areas of a performance where there is little to no momentum and you're starting to lose the interest of the listener.

Below is the time breakdown of all of the pieces to give you a better idea.

  1. Piece one is five minutes and ten seconds
  2. Piece two is forty seconds
  3. Piece three is two minutes and seven seconds
  4. Piece four is two minutes and nineteen seconds
  5. Piece five is seventy-five seconds
  6. Piece six is eight minutes and thirty-five seconds

Sophisticated Lady
0:00 – 5:10
Improvisation #1
5:10 – 5:50
5:51 – 7:18
Ask Me Now
7:20 – 9:39
Improvisaton #2
9:40 – 10:15
In a Sentimental Mood
10:20 – 18:55

I imagine had I tacked on an additional two minutes to each if these pieces, it would have totally changed the pacing, and probably making it a little less interesting. With the current pacing, I can listen to this for repeated listenings. However, if it was longer, I'm not sure that would be the case This performance also demonstrates my basic approach to making solo concerts and recordings: start off moderate, move quickly through the middle, and end big. Of course, there are deviations, but this is the basic outline.

We have our entire careers to get to our "shit," as they say. All of our hip stuff doesn't have to be laid out in a single concert. It's nothing wrong with leaving them wanting more. I think of it as the perpetual encore.


Oh yeah, and I'll be performing this Sunday, January 15, 2017, at the Downtown Music Gallery. It will be a  double-bill with alto saxist Mikko Innanen, who will also be performing solo. Showtime is at 6:00 PM.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Four Ways I Discovered to Prepare the Soprano in 2016

In reflecting on things I've discovered on the horn--mainly while working on my new CD recording--here are four that I believe are worth mentioning. Mind you, these things aren't for everybody, but they certainly will no doubt take you into a new sonic realm.

1. Hanging chimes from the neck strap holder and responding to the randomness of the ringing of the chimes is a nice little self-contained sonic space that's fun to venture into. Oh yeah, the soprano starts to feel extremely heavily if you do it for a while. All I can say is keep your solos short.

2. Attaching aluminum foil to the bell of my instrument creates a nice buzzing texture when you play in the lower register. You might have to experiment with some different size foil, but it almost always works.

3, Creating a reed straw and using it as the vibrating source instead of the mouthpiece gives the soprano a nice double-reed sound. Again, it's not an exact science, so you'll need to experiment with some different size straws.

4.  Placing a piece of Scotch tape over the neck opening, puncturing small holes in the tape and placing the mouthpiece over it, creates a very unique resistance the only allows small bursts of air through the horn.  Again, creating an interesting folk instrument texture.

All of these are prominently demonstrated on my new CD Soprano-Ville. More news about this soon. All I can say is to look for an early February 2017 release.

Here's an excerpt from a performance I did at Spectrum on October 18, 2016, where I demonstrate the soprano and hanging chimes idea.



Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Steve Lacy Festival was named one of the "Concerts of the Year" by the New York City Jazz Record.

I was honored to read that our Steve Lacy Festival concert at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem was named one the "Concerts of Year" by the New York City Jazz Record. It was a very special evening featuring Dave Liebman, Andrew Raffo Dewar, Mark Helias and Andrew Cryille, and many fellow straight hornists who came by share their music: Kayla Milmine, Heath Watts, Nicole Johänntgen and Christof Noche. 

And a special thanks to the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.

Congrats to everyone on a job well-done!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

January performances at the NYC Winter Jazzfest 2017

I'm happy to be appearing at the NYC Winter JazzzFest 2017 with three amazing ensembles:

(1) On Friday, January 6th, 2017 at 12:40 AM, as a part of the January 6  Marathon, I'll be performing with guitarist Marvin Sewell at the New School 5th Floor Theater 55 West 13th Street NYC

Here's the line-up
  • Marvin Sewell - guitars
  • Jerome Harris - acoustic bass guitar
  • James Hurt - piano
  • Satoshi Takeishi - drums
  • Sam Newsome - soprano sax

(2) On Saturday, January 7, 2017, at 10:30 PM, as a part of the January 7 Marathon, I'll be performing with the AfroHorn Superband at the Zinc Bar

Here's the line-up

  • Sam Newsome - soprano sax
  • JD Allen - tenor sax,
  • Bruce Williams - alto sax
  • Alex Harding - baritone sax
  • Bob Stewart - tuba
  • Ahmed Abdulla - trumpet
  • Antoine Drye - trumpet
  • Abiodun Oyewole - poetry
  • Aruan Ortiz - piano
  • Rashaan Carter - bass
  • Brad Jones - bass
  • Roman Diaz - percussion
  • Francisco Mora-Catlett - drum

(3) Lastly, on Sunday, January 8, 2017, at 10:00 PM I'll be performing duo, with drummer Andrew Cryille as a part of the Thelonious Monk 100th Birthday Improv Show, located at Littlefield at 622 Degraw Street in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn.

This event will feature 12 improvisers playing pieces from Monk's classic album "Solo Monk" in different configurations from solos to larger ensembles.  Performers include Kris Davis, David Virelles, Shabaka Hutchings, Sam Newsome, Marc Ribot, Charlie Burnham, Erik Friedlander, Linda Oh, Trevor Dunn, Hamid Drake, Andrew Cyrille, and Deva Mahal. 

The event starts at 8:00 PM.

So as you can see,  I'll be starting the New Year with a bang, so please come up and join the festivities. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

New York City Jazz Record Interview

I know this is a little late, but here's an interview I did last month in the October 2016 issue of New York City Jazz Record with Kurt Gottschalk. Sometimes when I do interviews I'm never sure of how edgy I can be. Treading the waters of edginess is a lot easier musically. No one would chastise me for playing challenging notes; however, saying things that challenge popular beliefs can end careers. As a culture, we are very tolerant of musical perspectives, diversity of opinions is a different story altogether.

But I did have fun, and I hope to do more in the future.

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