Sam Newsome

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

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Straighthorns of Plenty: The Dave Liebman/Sam Newsome Quartet

Cornelia Street Cafe, October 8, 2011
The Dave Liebman/Sam Newsome Quartet will perform on Saturday, June 9, 2012 at Cornelia Street Cafe. It will be the second installment of our two soprano collaboration. This time we'll be in the supportive hands of bassist Tony Moreno and drummer Jim Black. You might call this Dave's collaboration rhythm section, since he used them in the two tenor band he co-led with saxophonist Ellery Eskelin.  They recorded two CDs on the Hatology label--Renewal (2008) and Different But the Same (2003).

Our first gig together was in October of 2011 (also at Cornelia Street Cafe) was with bassist Gregg August and drummer Otis Brown III.  It was billed as a tribute to Steve Lacy, but Lacy was there only in spirit--sort of the way Lester Young is at a Wayne Shorter concert. We did, however, perform two of Lacy's more popular pieces: "Bone," and "Blues for Aida."So it wasn't entirely Lacy-less.

Gearing up to share the bandstand with Liebman on that night felt very intimidating at the onset. All I could think about was the Elvin Jones recording "Live at the Lighthouse," which featured some pretty fiery Coltrane-influenced exchanges between Liebman and Steve Grossman. Back then it was difficult to tell who was who.  As an aside, when I was at Berklee back in the eighties, that recording was the tenor player's rite of passage. (Play a few of those slick chromatic lines on "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise,"  and you would be embraced as part of Berklee's Euro-centric tenor elite.)

However, once we counted off the first tune, all of those fears and memories of two titans going toe to toe fell by the wayside. And from that moment on it was nothing less than inspiring. It was more like two voices coming together--each with a unique take on improvising and the soprano. It was far from being a cutting session, up an octave.

Moreover, where I thought I would come away from the experience being more impressed by Liebman's keen harmonic sense, it was actually the way in which he played his ideas that made the biggest impression. I felt like I was hearing someone singing or speaking, instead of playing. Gregg August summed it up best when he said that "after a while his sound just permeated the entire room." And I must admit that at this point in my life, the two things that I'm the least impressed with is technical virtuosity and harmonic density. I overdosed on those two show stoppers while I was a student at Berklee. I need to hear emotional depth and a personal approach to keep my interest.

The apprentice
It was great to listen to his sound at such close proximity. I was able to hear all of the nuances which makes his approach to the instrument so unique. Unfortunately, we don't have many opportunities these days to play side by side with people who are 15 to 20 years our senior. We now serve apprenticeships with players two or three years older, if that. And this can have its advantages. It's nothing like having someone take that journey with you. However, it's a different kind of experience when you play beside someone who has been to where you're trying to get to and back again. It's like that old saying: "He's forgotten more music than you will ever know.

Liebman has already given me a heads up that we will not be playing any tunes. It will be all improvised. I've done that sort of thing on gigs for a tune or two, but never for the entire gig. But I'm sure with Tony Moreno on bass and Jim Black on drums, it will be like riding a wave.

Don't forget to make your reservations, it will be sure to sell out.

Reserve HERE

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