Sam Newsome

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



Saturday, December 30, 2017

The New York City Jazz Record (Best of 2017)






It was terrific seeing both Sopranoville and Magic Circle included in The New York City Jazz Record (Best of 2017) list.

The folks at NYCJR have always been very supportive of what I do; I've always been very appreciative, too. I remember the days when I could not get writers to even recognize that I no longer played the tenor and was now self-identifying as a soprano player. I still remember doing a gig as a soprano player in the late 90s and the title of the review in The New York Times was "Tenor Saxophonist Probing in the Shadows." At the time I took it as the writer saying, "You might now call yourself a soprano saxophonist, but you will ALWAYS be a tenor saxophonist to ME! But I was patient and they eventually came around.


 Also, big congrats to the many great musicians also included. As you know, today's music scene is very saturated, so getting noticed is even more of a feat. When I first came on the scene back in the 90s, recognition did not necessarily go to those making the most exciting music. Often times, it was about the artists whose CDs record companies were throwing the most money at. During the era of the Record Company Industrial Complex, it was all about outspending your competitors. There was no way a DIY artist could compete with Columbia/Sony, Warner Brothers, and RCA, and Blue Note. These were the head honchos during my youth. Fortunately, they don't yield the same power these days. Thank god for Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker, the Napster guys who first threw the grenades of opportunity into their monopoly.

But I'm glad we're living in this more democratic society, where the power belongs not just to those with the deepest pockets, but those with the ability to create excitement about their music, often through vision, courage, and persistence.

Happy 2018!


Monday, December 25, 2017

Prepared Soprano Saxophone w/ Plastic Tube Extensions

Below are six examples of the soprano saxophone prepared by attaching plastic tubes of varying lengths to the neck of the instrument. In doing so, I'm able to extend the lower range of the soprano. Of course, the longer the tube, the lower the pitch.

There are a few challenges:

(1) I'm often limited to 2 - 3 notes. Which means that I'm limited to playing drones, rhythmical figures, ostinatos, and noise-like effects.

(2) To get the full effect of the tubes, I do find it necessary to circular breath.

(3) Don't try this thinking you're going to have a new lower octave to the soprano. This serves primarily as a textual effect, not a melodic function.

(4) Keep in mind that these excerpts were recorded on my iPhone, so the sound quality is pretty low. I even suggest that you listen with headphones in order to hear the full effect. However, even without them, the original intent is still audible.

Let me know what you think!

Prepared Soprano Saxophone #1: Tube Extensions w/Harmon Mute (This example almost has an electronica sound, even though it's all acoustic. This is achieved by playing a Harmon mute into the bell of the horn.)





Prepared Soprano Saxophone #2: Tube Extensions W/ Overtone Whistle Tones (On this example, I begin with some percussive slap tonguing, that almost sounds like a bass guitar string, segueing into a 3/4 ostinato. And by slightly over-blowing I'm able to achieve the whistle tones.)





Prepared Soprano Saxophone #3: Short Tube Extension in 4/4 (On this example, you can hear that it's a much shorter tube, producing a much higher pitch. This is also the only example where there is a more discernable melodic content.)





Prepared Soprano Saxophone #4: Medium Tube Extension (One this example, you can that the tube is slightly longer than example 3. And through oral cavity manipulation, I'm able to produce some interesting tone distortions.)




Prepared Soprano Saxophone #5: Tube Extension, Playing Textural Flurries (On this example, you can hear that the tube is slightly larger.)




Prepared Soprano Saxophone #6: Tube Extensions w/ Aluminum Foil (On this example, I created a 3/4 ostinato with a drone effect. And by attaching aluminum foil to the end of the bell, I'm able to create a cool buzzing effect.)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Linear or non-linear practice: Which is the path to originality?




Linear practice is pretty straight-forward. You know exactly what you want to accomplish, you just have to figure out how to get from point A to point B. This could mean trying to figure how to navigate your way to a set of chord changes; rehearsing a problematic fingering combination until it becomes natural; or merely doing long tones, trying to keep the pitch from inevitably going flat or sharp--pretty straightforward stuff.

Non-linear practice is not as clearly defined. First of all, there’s no point A to point B. You either arrive there, or you don’t. It either works or is it doesn’t. Of course, you can spend time fine-tuning any musical issue. But the objective of non-linear practice is to just arrive. 

Of course, this is no easy matter. It takes a lot of experimentation, and it requires a whole lot of failing. In fact, failing is the surest way to succeed practicing non-linearly. And this is one of the reasons many shy from this approach. We avoid failing at all costs. We are programmed to work our way methodically to perfection, which makes linear practicing the method of choice.

Multi-phonic production is an excellent example of non-linear practice. Typically, they work, or they don’t. And many variables come into play: reed strength, air velocity, embouchure pressure, instrument, mouthpiece, and if course, fingering combination—typically crossed fingerings. And the either-it-works-or-it-doesn’t narrative applies to my prepared soprano methodology. Many of those experiments heard on Sopranoville, like reed straw, tin foil, Scotch tape, and hanging chimes were all about non-linear experimentation. Many earlier attempts were total failures. But when it clicked, it clicked. As I’ve said with non-linear practice, you don’t rehearse your way to perfection, you simply arrive. 


Non-linear practicing teaches us to become original through practice, not perfect. And the way I see it, if it’s original, that in it self is perfection. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

My Top Inspirational Tweets of 2017

Tweeting is not something that I do every day. And I tend to only do it when I feel I have something interesting to say. My tweets tend to fall into one of three categories: 

1) gig and CD announcements;

2) notifications about my new blog posts;

3) interesting and insightful statements that I don't have time to turn in to full-fledged articles.

However, posting them as tweets allows me to at least document the ideas before they get lost. And I'm usually creating them as a reminder to myself. Posting them on Twitter allows me to make them more tangible. 

I hope you find these inspirational. I'll certainly be fleshing out these ideas over the next year or so as blog posts. Enjoy!



1. April 13, 2017


2. April 13, 2017


3. April 16, 2017



4. April 23, 2017



5. April 27, 2017


6. September 23, 2017



7. September 25, 2017



8. September 26, 2017



9. October 1, 2017


10. October 18, 2017




11. October 11, 2017



12. November 1, 2017



13. November 3, 2017



14. November 3, 2017


15. November 3, 2017



16. November 5, 2017


17. December 2, 2017




18. December 12, 2017


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Downbeat Magazine - Best Albums of 2017 (Sopranoville)

It was nice seeing Sopranoville included in Downbeat's Best Albums of 2017 listing, especially in the "Masterpieces" category. As I've expressed my times, I was very nervous about releasing this CD. I ventured into some new areas musically, and I was concerned it might have gone over folks' heads. But I guess I was wrong. At least it did not go over the right folks' head.

And it reaffirms one of my basic beliefs, which is that you can push your music to the stratosphere with regards to experimentation. But as long as it's musical, people will get it. And again, I stress, the right people.

"The wonder of Newsome is the way he allies geeky experimentalism with controlled musicality." - Downbeat



Full steam ahead!

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