Sam Newsome

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

Andrew Cyrille/Sam Newsome Duo

Children's Magical Garden (September 15, 2018)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Is Piracy a 1990s Kind of Worry?

Many musicians and industry folks alike feel piracy is our biggest worry.  I'm here to beg to differ.

In this era of musical abundance,  obscurity should be our biggest concern. Seeing how consumers have access to as much music as their precious little ears can consume, we should be honored that someone would want to steal something we've created. It means that we have somehow figured out how to cut through the clutter. According to an article in Time Health, the average internet user has the attention span of a goldfish, which amounts to eight staggering seconds!

Not only is piracy improbable,  but getting folks to know and care that we exist after discovering us, is equally difficult. 

If this sounds harsh, consider what we have to compete with:

- According to an article in Tubular Insights, 500 hours of YouTube video are uploaded, not every day, or every hour, but every minute. And this was back in 2015.

- In an article in Internet Live Stats, 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter every second.

- And in an article in GeekWire, 95 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram daily.

Get the point?

Looking at these stats, worrying about someone even noticing our music seems overly optimistic--never mind, actually taking the time to figure out how to steal it. I’m not saying that it can’t happen. It happens all the time, especially with sampling. But in all honesty, how often does a big name rapper illegally sample our music, making millions, while giving us nothing? Rarely. And if they do, what is the likelihood that they would get away with it?

So you get my point. Casing the room for folks making audio and video recordings of our performances is counter-productive. I used to play with a bass player who would stop playing if he saw someone recording--even if it wasn't his gig. Needless to say I don’t use him anymore. In this age of abundance, we should be thankful that someone is willing to record our performances and share it with their friends and followers on social media. Some might see it as stealing; some might see it as exploitation. I see it as free publicity. That person and their Samsung might give exposure to a few thousand folks that ordinarily I would not have reached.

If someone illegally records your music and makes a commercial recording of it, or steals your tune and claim it as their own, that’s a different story. Again. How often does this really happen?

Look. I know we want to protect our precious tunes and performances of them. But trust me when I say that most stuff written and performed is not even exploitable by the musicians who’ve created it. Never mind a couple of drunken millennials with smartphones. Not to say a lot of music is not good. Just the opposite. This is one of the most creatively fertile periods I’ve experienced in my lifetime. But being good and being exploitable for commercial gain are two different conversations. 

Let me say this. Yes, copyright your music. Make sure your publishing is in order. But when you encounter folks out here doing free publicity for you, don’t fight them, embrace them. Hell, maybe even thank them. Realistically, most of the people exposed to our work on social media will give us eight seconds of their precious time, at best, before moving on to the next tweet, Instagram post, Facebook post, Snapchat post, or controversial YouTuber-of-the-month. I don’t know about you? But I’ll take it. Every little bit helps.

In this era of musical abundance, our only recourse is generosity and sharing, not selfishness, suspicion,  and hoarding. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Remembering Hamiet Bluiett: Big Horn, Big Heart

I first met Hamiet Bluiett back in 1989, when I first moved to New York. I was fresh out of Berklee and green as the cucumber fields of Fruitland, Maryland. Back then I counted on friends and colleagues who had already moved to New York a year or two earlier to be buffers between folks and me I wanted to work with. 

On this particular day, I was hanging with guitarist Mark Whitfield, who had left Berklee a year or two earlier to play with a renowned R&B band. After we had finished playing a jam session, Mark told me that he was playing that night with this baritone saxophonist named Hamiet Bluiett, whom I had never heard of, at a spot in Greenwich Village, and that I should bring my horn--at the time would have been my vintage Mark VI tenor saxophone Back then, showing up at other people’s gigs with your instrument was how you found work. It was an informal type of audition and casting call that was never-ending. Much to my surprise, it was one of Hamiet’s large ensembles, that at the time featured Troy Davis on drums, Reginald Veal on trombone (not bass), Steve Wilson on saxophone, Bruce "Bud" Revels on saxophone and clarinet, James Genus on bass, and many others whose names are escaping me. 

The music was very eclectic, a mixture of written parts, musical cues, and free improvisation. What you’d expect from Hamiet Bluiett. In fact, this was my introduction to free improvisation. Coming straight out of the conservatory setting, I was used to following a musical map telling me the tempo, the meter, what chord changes to play on, and how many choruses to play. What Hamiet introduced me to that night was how to follow a musical compass—learning to listen to my musical instincts and not just regurgitate pre-rehearsed vocabularies. 

Long story short, I sat in and did my little thing and everyone seemed to dig it, especially Hamiet. 

Here’s the funny part.

After the first set, Hamiet, looking a little perturbed, asked the band to convene upstairs for a band meeting—including me, even though I had only played on one or two pieces.
All of the band huddled around Hamiet in this very small and cramped green room. We were all sitting, while he stood, occasionally prancing from left to right, as he began tearing the band a new one!

His tirade went something like this: “What the hell are you guys doing out there?! What the HELL are you doing?! Why the hell are you trying to swing? If you want to swing, go play with Miles Davis or Jimmy McGriff, or one of those motherfuckers! Don’t bring that shit to my bandstand. If I play in C, don’t you play in C. Play in B or Db. If I play in 4/4, don’t you play in 4/4. Do something different. Use your imaginations.”

And much to my surprise, he pointed at me and said, “Now this man. He’s going in the same direction as me.” To say that I felt more uncomfortable than flattered would be a gross understatement. During those days I was very much influenced by 1960s John Coltrane and Joe Henderson. So playing in that freer,  experimental setting felt very scary, yet, liberating—something I only learned to appreciate years later.

That night made a significant impact on me. Going to Berklee taught me to be a musician, that night with Hamiet taught me what it’s like to be an artist. A path I’m proud to say that I’m still pursuing passionately.

Mr. Bluiett’s music and generosity of spirit will be missed. He formally and informally mentored many young musicians who had the good fortune of crossing his path. Brooklyn, Illinois, would be proud to know that one of their own represented them well. He left the world in a much better place--an endeavor to which most can only aspire.  R.I.P.

Check out this 2010 performance of Hamiet playing at "Giant Steps" at a rehearsal for the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival. Recorded February 4, 2010.

This trio features the Kahil El'Zabar Ritual Trio

Kahil El'Zabar -- drums

Hamiet Bluiett -- baritone saxophone

Junius Paul -- contrabass

I really like the way Hamiet opens up this tune. Not an easy task. As most know who've played it, it's difficult not to fall into a patternistic approach when playing this tune. Hamiet's performance is devoid of all cliches. 


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Awards and Accolades: They’re Only Half the Picture

Being musicians and artists, we often aspire to get awards and accolades under our belts. Whether it's getting a sizable grant, the Guggenheim fellowship, the NYFA fellowship, or the Pulitzer Prize, these kinds of awards are considered the highest of honors in the arts and entertainment--nothing to turn up our noses at. Being recognized, however, by these types of organizations will not act as a surrogate for what really matters: having your music or work become better and more impactful. Or better yet: Doing work that matters.

As creative people, how we’re perceived is not always based on past accomplishments, but on what we’re currently doing or might be doing in the future. Past accomplishments usually gain notoriety-equity only after we’re gone. A sad truth.

Regarding awards, I’ve known many musicians whose music actually became less interesting, or simply not as good, after receiving this type of establishment anointment. My theory is that before, they were hungry, but then they became full of themselves. 

This is one of the dangers of the ego and how it can become a barricade between us and where greatness lies. It’s one thing to create because you’re inspired, it’s another to create with concerns on how your creation will be perceived in comparison to previous work, especially if that work catapulted you to a higher level of fame and recognition. The latter tends to work more against you, than being a new starting place for greater things.

As I see it, receiving grants and awards are great things, for no other reason that they open up opportunities, enabling you to grow your audience, and at times grow your bank account. But at the end of the day, what you most want to be excited about is doing work that which makes you a better musician and more impactful as an artist. In other words, doing work that would be missed if you didn't show up to do it. No plaque, trophy, or paycheck could ever replace this.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Talking Shop with Soprano Saxophonist Jamison Williams

Have you ever wondered about the setups other saxophonists are playing on soprano? 

NOW you can find out!

During this installment, we’ll be talking shop with soprano saxophonist Jamison Williams. Jamison, who resides in Jacksonville, Florida, self-identifies as an experimentalist and an improviser. Not to mention that he thrives on pushing the envelope with regards to extended saxophone techniques, sound exploration,, and music programming.  Check out his [neu] Sonic Music Initiative. Jamison also has a fascination with reimagining the Disney Songbook through avant-garde lenses.

Knowing Jamison, and knowing that he is out there doing his thing, makes me very excited and optimistic about the future of the soprano saxophone and experimental music.

So I am extremely grateful that he was generous enough to take time from his busy schedule to talk shop.

Sam Newsome: Jamison, during our last interview, you stated that you play the Conn 18M soprano. Is this still the case? Being an older model, how does it compare to some of the newer horns available?

Jamison Williams: There are some tools you refuse to let go of, they’re an appendage, and they just seem to pronounce the exact syllables intrinsically appropriate for the story being told; this is the most ideal instrument needed to manifest every word to complete that creative sentence. It will be with me for life. 

                                                       Jamison's Conn18M Soprano Sax (Disassembled)

Having played Nonoko Yoshida’s soprano, it definitely gave me an eye-opener as to the more comfortable ergonomics developed by newer models, but compared to the 1865 Adolf Sax soprano I’d played at Saxquest, this ’27 New Wonder II feels practically futuristic. A very satisfying era, for me, in soprano saxophone manufacturing.  

SN: What was it like to play a soprano saxophone from 1865? I’m not even sure if it can be put into words.

JW: The Adolphe Sax soprano was a museum piece located at SaxQuest in St. Louis, played like an absolute charm; it had a double octave key, so in order to get a range above the high G, you would have to engage the second octave key. It played brilliantly, clean, open, no backpressure force, and was surprisingly light, much, much lighter than the Conn I’m playing now. Much lighter. The ergonomics were also spectacular, perfect grip. 

SN: When I first switched to the soprano, the Conn, which I imagine is similar to yours, was of one the sopranos I liked the best. What deterred me was not having access to the fourth octave. Was this ever an issue with you? Eventually, I think I could have figured it out, but I was too impatient at the time.

JW: That’s pretty high. There are colors and musical choices that are distinctly necessary for what’s being designed. That range, when used by me, is masked by auxiliary overtones when using multiphonics. Also, if they haven’t been produced as overtones, I probably haven’t sent them a birthday card either.

SN: Are still playing the Otto Link “Super Tone Master?” You seem to have a proclivity for vintage equipment.

                                           An Otto Link: Super Tone Master" Soprano Sax Mouthpiece

JW: That mouthpiece was given to me by a very well respected soprano player who was unable to attend a scheduled performance due to illness, who’s no longer with us; he asked for me to keep this exchange between us, so it is very special to me, and a private dedication at every performance. It will go with me to my grave.  

SN: What do you most like about it? And what’s one aspect of it that you dislike?

JW: There haven’t really been very many other pieces that I’ve played, this and an S80 and honestly the only ones I’ve ever put to my face; some things just fit, this seems to be the one that just makes the most sense.

SN: And how about reeds…Are you still playing the Vandoren #3? This used to be the brand of reeds I played before switching to the RW reeds.

                                                           Jamison's brand of reeds

JW: Vandoren 2.5 (classics) is the strength that now seems best for my lip, they seem to have a fresher sound compared to the stronger reed, even if by just a little bit. 

Extended techniques are my primary bag; having a reed that provides the support of hourly, heavy backpressure, as well as the flexibility to provide sustainable, clean overtones is absolutely essential. These are the performance spark plugs that power the machine.   

SN: I can certainly relate to this. Like you, being that extended techniques are at the core of what I do, I tend to go through reeds pretty quickly. Do you find this to be the case as well?

JW: Interestingly enough, I am pretty sensitive to the reeds, tapping them, controlled air pressure, and a proper balance, so they pretty much last me a good while; I’m still playing a reed from last year, with no chips, warping, or dullness. My teacher told to back in college to rotate them out, in a series of four, to keep a fresh reed always in hand. Instead, I play one until it’s dead, then move on. Love them, and they will love you in return.

SN: That’s pretty fascinating! The only time one of my reeds ever lasts a year is when they get lost between the cushions of the couch--something to think about.

And what type of ligature or ligatures do you use? As you know, ligatures have become almost as complicated as the mouthpieces. The newer ones are no longer metal contraptions with screws that you tighten to keep the reed from coming off. 

JW: Interestingly enough, having played a stock Otto lig, a basic Rovner, and a Francois Louis, I managed to Frankenstien one out of an old leather belt, and bound it with an old finishing washer. It’s absolutely perfect: the flexibility, resilience, resistance, tone, and grip. Perfection.

                                                 One of Jamison's homemade ligatures!

SN: It looks pretty cool. How long did it take you to make this? 

JW: Once you have the vision, it only takes a second, think this one took me five minutes maybe, probably less; just needed a good wrap that would provide ‘give’ (for flexibility and vibration), as well as endure an hour-long set without leaving me stranded. 

SN: And have you ever thought about selling them?

JWHa! Selling these things...hadn’t thought of it. Think I will just stick to playing a horn and continuing the growth of an ever-expanding library of published books.

SN: I can respect that. Having a narrow focus keeps you from getting derailed from what’s really important.

So what’s new on the horizon? Any noteworthy gigs/tours/recordings coming up? You always seem to have something in the works.

JW: Always on the move: tour throughout the South in July with a quartet including fellow saxophonist Jim Ivy, New York in August with Dave Miller and Austin White (to commemorate a trio release), solo Japan in January, and solo throughout Europe in February. 

In collaboration with artist MP Landis, January looks to be the inaugural month for an ongoing boxset series, ‘Interpretations from the Disney Songbook’, vol I-V; solo soprano saxophone, each extensively exploring key signature songs, themes fully expanded in duration, space, and development. The motifs have been mapped out in microscopic acuity. Releases will be made available in Portland, Maine in conjunction with an exhibition of the art cover, in full life-sized detail. Highly anticipating this event/release.

Currently continuing the ever-expanding ‘Interpretations from the Disney Songbook’. The previous edition was documenting specific graphic, shorthand notes and exercises (written in my words, for my personal understanding and development), intended for solo soprano, and closed out at over 1200 pages, this edition for ensemble is now amassing at over 800 pages of arrangements ‘for orchestra and soprano saxophone’; this allows for me the opportunity to write out everything in my saxophonic arsenal, with accompaniment, so the soloist is exclusively dedicated to extended thematic techniques. Me, with an organized backing band, per se.

                                               "Interpretations from the Disney Songbook"

SN: That’s quite an itinerary. I’ve always admired how you’ve been able to keep the flames going on so many fronts. Thanks again for taking the time to do this, and I look forward to hearing your new work.

JW: Absolutely! Thank you again, and appreciate you reaching out to me. Take care, and be safe.

Please check out this cutting edge performance of Jamison playing duo with one of my favorite percussionists, Tatsuya Nakatani.

To learn more about Jamison and his music, please visit

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Thought of the day: Taking Risks

When I first switched to the soprano, I equated it to being like jumping off a cliff and growing wings on the way down. As artists, we can't afford to wait for safety nets. Being like no other is our safety net. The riskiest thing we can do in today's musical climate is to play it safe.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Thought of the day: Success Through Failure

The problem with many jazz improvisers is not that they don’t play enough great solos, it’s that they have not played enough bad solos. Failure is the surest path to success. Don't try to be perfect. Just try.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Thought of the day: The Status Quo

The status quo has only two rules: (1) keep things the same, and (2) keep those trying to change things out. Now that you know its rules, make up your own. Don't fit in. Lead. Don't conform. Convert. You can either fit in or stand out. Try to do both, you will fail at both.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Thought of the day: Outsider/Insider

When you decide to become an artist, even when you become famous, you’re still an outsider. So get used to it. And for the record: Being an outsider or insider is usually not about the number of fans you have, nor the amount of money you have, but the vision you have. Embrace it. Share it.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Thought of the day: Ruler

Most people live in a world that they inherit. Artists live in a world that they create. And not just any world, a micro-world.  Even though it starts off small,  it can become so influential that it changes the macro-world at large. Don't settle for macro-world citizenry. Become a micro-world ruler. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Thought of the day: Having a Job

I'm a big proponent of artists/musicians getting 9-5 jobs. It's nothing wrong with paying the bills while continuing to stay focused on your vision. Is it better to be continually gigging and having lost your direction, or selectively gigging keeping your focus intact?

Thought of the day: The Harvest

I release recordings for three reasons:

1. So I won’t forget them.

2. So I can share them.

3. So I can then move on to the next thing.

Focus not on the harvest, but on planting the seeds. Fertile the world with your uniqueness.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Thought of the day: A New Business Paradigm

Old way: 
  • Artist makes demo;
  • Artist gives demo to manager;
  • Manager gives demo to lawyer;
  • Lawyer gives demo to A&R rep;
  • A&R rep signs artist to label;
  • Label records artist;
  • Label releases record to the world.
New way: 
  • Artist makes recording;
  • Artist makes recording available to the world.

Thought of the day: Hope

Many don’t realize we’re experiencing a music business revolution. That’s because they’re telling themselves a story from the 1980s. This is a new day of abundance, filled with hope, and opportunities to share and connect. Don't squander it.  Start telling yourself a new story.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Thought of the day: Doing the Work

As artists:

Do the work people don’t know needs to be done;

Do the work people don’t want to do;

Do the work people are afraid to do;

Do the work that years later, people will say, “Man, I wish I had done that.”

Thought of the day: Creativity

Creativity is like a parade of ideas marching through the metaphorical town known as our work. The best view of any parade is from the sidelines. Get in front, you might get trampled. Get in the middle, you might get lost. Get in the back, you might get left behind. 

Just observe.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Thought of the day: Success

Four Must-haves for Success in the Entertainment Business
1. Must have friends
2. Must be at the right place at the right time
3. Must have an organization of people in support of what you do
4. Must have lots of luck

If these four things are clicking, your talent will develop just from opportunities to work.

Thought of the day: Storytelling

Musicians often don't realize that the music scene is exactly how it should be. Usually, the only thing wrong is the story we tell ourselves about it. We can be the optimist basking in the middle of it, or the naysayer peering at it from the outside. 

What story are you telling?

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Thought of the day: Sharing

Many musicians think that piracy is our biggest worry. That’s 1980's thinking. In this internet age, obscurity should be what we fear most. Don’t worry about people stealing your music. You should be so lucky to have someone want to steal something you created. SHARE don’t HOARD.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Thought of the day: Communities

Many see music as a means to build a business. I see music as a means to build a community. Businesses make money; communities make a difference. One receives, the other gives.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Don’t Spam, Connect: The True Path to Building Audiences

Finding an audience with whom to connect is something we all want to do as musicians and artists. And why not? These are the folks who will attend our gigs, purchase our music, and support our artistic endeavors. Our base.

My issue is not so much wanting to have a unified group in our aesthetical corners, but how we often times treat those we're trying to woo, is something to be desired. Instead of satiating their hunger for artistic enrichment, we often resort to spamming them to death. I'm talking about the barrage of emails, tweets, Facebook posts, snail mail, you name it. As I see it, spam is an acronym for:


We all need money. This I get. The problem with spamming is that you betray the trust of those who are interested in what you do. They opened your email, read your Facebook and Twitter posts for the first time, maybe even the second, third, and forth, and after a while, they know never to do it again. Why? Because they opened their door, and you showed up, not bearing gifts, but things they don’t want or need. 

So what’s a fella to do?

First of all, don’t spam, speak. More importantly, speak to those already eager to listen. 

Don’t hustle them. Lead them. Lead them to where they're already yearning to go, but did not want to go there alone. Be a guiding light, not an annoying flickering one, only screaming for attention.

And if you do want to connect with your audience, here’s an acronym to guide you: 



Monday, June 4, 2018

Quarter-Tone Studies for Saxophone - Part 1

One of the best exercises one can practice on the soprano sax is quartertone studies. I consider this the full-body straight horn workout.

(1) Sharpens pitch control. One's sense of pitch becomes heightened after intense quarter-tone study. Since the semi-tone becomes larger, you have a more nuanced understanding of intervals as a whole.

(2) Widens your timbral understanding of the instrument. Since many of these notes require unorthodox fingerings, you also get introduced to new note timbres, quarter steps below and above conventional notes.

(3)  Improves dexterity. There's something about playing these awkward fingerings in succession that leaves the fingers very nimble. I think it's the equivalence to running with ankle weights on. You might be moving slower, but you're working harder.

The Music
This piece shown below is from a book by Ronald L. Caravan titled Preliminary Exercises & Etudes in Contemporary Techniques for Saxophone.  A must-have! This is the first piece in a series of etudes the appear in the section of the book called Quarter-Tone Etudes for Saxophone.

I've included a metronome click with my reading of it. It makes it easier to follow. I also give a universal 4 counts out front.

The recommended tempo is quarter note = 84 -92. But I would say take it at a quarter note = 60, if you have to. The pitches and the fingerings take some getting used to. So take it slow.

 Let me know how it works out for you!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Talking Shop with Soprano Saxophonist Jane Bunnett

Have you ever wondered about the setups other saxophonists are playing on soprano? 

NOW you can find out!

During this installment, we will be talking shop with soprano saxophonist Jane Bunnett. Jane, who's based in Toronto, Canada is mostly known for her Afro Cuban explorations. Her most recent being with the Grammy-nominated group Maqueque; this being her fourth Grammy nomination in total. Jane has also won numerous Juno Awards, Jazz Journalists Awards, and has won both the Downbeat Critics and Readers polls in the Rising Star Flute categories.

So I am extremely grateful she was generous enough to take time from her busy schedule to talk shop with us.

Sam Newsome: Hi Jane, so let’s get down to business.  What type of soprano saxophone do you play?

Jane Bunnett: I play a Selmer Mark VI.

Jane's soprano

SN: Is this something you settled on immediately or was it a lot of trial and error until you found one that worked for you?

JB: It was what Steve Lacy played. I wanted that!

SN: Say no more. If it’s good enough for Steve Almighty….

So what is your take on some of the newer, built-to-perfection sopranos played by saxophonists these days? Or do you resist the urge to experiment?

JB: A little. The newer horns are not made out of the same metal. You cannot compare them, in my opinion. Even if you can get around with the fingering, play faster, and it’s not as awkward, the sound is not there for me. I prefer a great sound, a warm sound. On the Mark VI you must work hard at the tuning, but still, the sound is great. 

SN: I agree. And that seems to be a reoccurring sentiment with soprano saxophone specialists. We are willing to work hard for the sound. There’s certainly a no-pain-no-gain sound production philosophy that we seem to embrace.

What kind of setup do you play on? First, the mouthpiece.

JB: I had a metal Dave Guardala mouthpiece. I loved it! Played it for many years along with the ligature that came with it. Then the ligature rotted on the mouthpiece and fell apart. So I was looking for a long time for another. I used a Selmer ligature, and then it broke. The ultimate disaster came when the mouthpiece just went kaput! I did not have a backup. It was strange because I thought that my horn was broken. I went to the shop, tried different mouthpieces, and it sounded fine. The mouthpiece just bailed on me overnight. So I began the long road of looking for a new mouthpiece and ligature. Nothing was close. But I settled on a metal SR Technologies Soprano Legend mouthpiece, with a Selmer  (Paris) silver plated ligature, with a medium La Voz reed.

Jane's SR Technologies "Legend" metal soprano mouthpiece

SN: I can certainly empathize with you. When something as integral to your sound as a mouthpiece or horn gives out on you, it’s as though an essential part of your musical identity disappears along with it. 

So Jane, being someone who plays in a lot in large ensembles where projecting might be a challenge, do you ever have to resist the urge to switch to one of those high baffle mouthpieces that’s more easy blowing and projects more easily? Or maybe what you’re currently playing on gives you precisely what you need. And for the record, it doesn’t sound like you need to change a thing.

JB: I gotta just work with what I got!

SN: I think that’s the best way. Tinkering with your setup only hurdles you over issues, it doesn’t address them head-on.

Do you fiddle around with different types of ligatures, or do you just keep it simple? For me, I do notice a big difference in the beginning when I switch ligatures, but then the same issues seem to surface once I get used to it. 

JB: Nope. I should experiment more, but I prefer to just work it out.

Jane's silver Selmer (Paris) soprano saxophone ligature

SN: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That definitely works for me. 

How about reeds? 

You stated earlier that you play medium La Voz soprano reeds. Do you ever find that you alter your reed strength depending on the musical setting? For example, playing with Maqueque might demand a different kind of reed response than playing duo, as you did on Double Time with pianist Paul Bley— an excellent recording, by the way.

JB:  Thanks, and no.  Same old answer: same gear.

Jane's brand of reeds and strength

SN: Speaking of Steve Almighty. I know that you studied with Lacy. What lessons did you learn from him as far as sound, and maybe even setups?

JB: Sound is everything. Different sounds. Still, I do not experiment like you and Lacy. I should do more. But between all the stuff--composing, band-leading, administrative responsibilities, setting up--you just have to decide on what feels good, and work on it. I do not want to spend my time shopping around.

SN: That’s smart. You don’t want to create problems where none exist. Life is never stingy with giving us legitimate worries to agonize over.

Lastly, what’s new in the world of Jane Bunnett? I know you’ve been tearing up the road playing with Maqueque—your all-female group from Cuba. And congratulations on all of your success. It is indeed well deserved. 

Do you have a new project on the horizon, or will you be releasing a follow-up Jane Bunnett & Maqueque CD?

JB: We have been doing a lot of touring--the USA, Brazil...The group has really developed into something special. And audiences love the vibe of the group. I think we are inspiring a lot of young women. And that was our intention from the get-go. The last CD, Oddara, our second, received a 2017 Grammy nomination. We are now working on our third CD, yet to be named. It will feature many young women artists that have been playing with us in our short history. The group was founded in 2013.

SN: That’s so inspiring.

JB: Thanks again for your interest. You are an inspiration to me with all that you do, too, Sam!

SN: It means a lot coming from you. And I really appreciate you taking the time to do this. All the best!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Art of Sound Exploration - The Sam Newsome Trio: Live at Smalls

My take on free jazz is a little different from some in that my commitment is more to the in-depth sonic exploration of my instrument than solely using it as a means of playing lines and patterns. My musical philosophy is rooted in the idea that if you’d like to arrive at unconventional sonic outcomes, the process through which you produce sound must also be conventional. And like many free jazzers, I do enjoy my noise and screeching moments, but overall, I find it much more satisfying creating music that’s nuanced with a wide dynamic range.

The following are the four sets I played at Smalls Jazz Club on Friday, May 18, 2018, and Saturday, May 19, 2018., with bassist Hill Greene on bass and drummer Reggie Nicholson. Two veterans practitioners of freer styles of jazz

My weekend at Smalls is significant to me for two reasons: One, being that Smalls is known for presenting more mainstream groups,  it was rare to have a group perform there playing totally improvised music. This type of jazz is more common in the East Village and Brooklyn than in the West Village. Much to my surprise, the crowd was really into it. Which proves my belief that's it's the musicians and industry folks who polarize music more so than the listeners. 

Secondly, this trio format allows me to showcase many of my sound explorations and extended techniques in the context of a rhythm section, and not just hearing me play them solo. Using them in a more interactive context is certainly more challenging, but these performances do prove that it is indeed possible.

I've also taken the time to catalog the different sonic explorations and extended techniques used in each set. This is helpful to those interested in analytical listening. 

But do check out both nights. There's a lot of interesting ideas and concepts being explored. Each set is a basket full of musical fruit for thought.

And shout out to Don Mount for the nice camera work. 

Friday, May 18, 2018 - First Set 

00:00 - Pitched lap tonging

06:25 - Doppler effect

10:53 - Harmon mute, Doppler effect and circular breathing

14:17 - Hanging wind chimes

23:34 - Tube extensions

31:06 - Aluminum foil

38:00 - Hanging 260 balloons

Friday, May 18, 2018 - Second Set

00:00 - Groan tube noisemaker inside of soprano

8:45 - Wood chimes

21:35 - Short tube extension with Doppler effect

25:23 - Short tube extension with flugelhorn bubble mute

37:14 - Long tube extension with aluminum foil and circular breathing

Saturday, May 19, 2018 - First Set

00:00 - Saxophone without the mouthpiece

08:02 - Tube extensions

21:40 - Hanging chimes

27:42 - 5 inch round balloons

31:52 - Aluminum foil

45:59 - Tube extension and flugelhorn bubble mute

47:53 - Flugelhorn bubble mute

48:24 - Trumpet Harmon mute

Saturday, May 19, 2018 - Second Set

00:00 -  Hanging chimes

05:40 – Harmon mute and Doppler effect

14:10 – Tube extensions, flugelhorn bubble mute and Doppler effect.

16:50 - Tube extension and mouthpiece only

17:40 - 5 inch round balloons

20:04 – Aluminum foil and Doppler effect

31:04 – Long chimes

49:55 – Tube extensions and circular breathing

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