Saturday, June 27, 2020
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Below are two examples of a microtonally altered "Blue Monk" by Thelonious Monk. This tune is a good vehicle for quartertone alternations, being that the melody is already centered around semitones.
Example 1 is my rendition. Here, I'm using the middle register of the instrument. The sound has more weight, but some of the quartertones are a lot more difficult finger and play in tune. Also, because I'm playing twice as many notes, the melody now has a double-time feel.
Example 2 is by Argentinian saxophonist Dario Dolci. In Dario's example, he's using the upper register of the instrument, which can make it slightly easier to play the quartertones with more clarity--not to negate the difficulty of what he's doing. As you'll hear, Dario has also slightly varied the melody.
I've also, included a few fingering charts for those of you looking to get your quartertone fingers wet.
(1) This first chart is from a book titled Preliminary Exercises and Etudes in Contemporary Techniques for Saxophone by Ronald L Caravan. An amazing book!
- Use a chromatic tuner
- Be prepared to make slight alterations more suitable for your own set-up
- Be patient. You have to allow your fingers to get used to the newfound awkwardness and your ears a chance to get used to the quarter-steps.
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
The Jones family gazed compassionately at the television set as CNN showed the third funeral of George Floyd. “So many people,” says Herman Jones. “He was loved by so many people.” The Jones family was moved by the maskless hugs of comradery, the affectionate kisses on the cheek, the celebratory joining of hands by members of the congregation. “So many people.” Shania thinks her dad must sad. They couldn’t even have one funeral for his mother. She lived just on the other side of town. ”I’m going to miss Granny Ester,” says Shania, quietly, and sadly as they watched the choir sing “Amazing Grace.” “I guess this is different,” she begins to wonder. She tried to control her anger as she remembers how Granny Ester was the pillar of the community: she was a principal at Glendale High for 20 years, she donated to a whole host of charities, and taught piano to underprivileged kids in her spare time. "Too bad we couldn't give her a proper send-off," she utters even louder, unsuccessfully trying to hide her tone of disappointment. Apparently, this is different. “So many people. So many people.”
Monday, June 15, 2020
Friday, June 5, 2020
Personally, I would like to see a more sizeable presence of black jazz writers--more for their point of view than their skin color. But only if they are excellent.
I would like to see a more sizeable presence of black jazz writers--more for their point of view than their skin color. But only if they are excellent.
As I see it, if the world of jazz journalism started embracing the much-practiced paradigm of racial quotas and cosmetic diversity where people are hired not by the content of their work, but the content of their skin would eventually hurt everyone involved. Aspiring black writers would suffer in that they'll never be incentivized to rise to the occasion and earn their position as a staff writer at a coveted magazine or newspaper. White writers would have to blanket their anger in white guilt to damper their hostile feelings towards the newly incompetent writers taking some of their work—justifying it with "Well, it is their music, right?" And music publications would suffer in that their magazines and newspaper would be all of the sudden flooded with substandard writing. This is only a hypothetical situation, mind you, pointing out the potential pitfalls of skin-based diversification.
Many would argue that jazz publications are already flooded with substandard writing, even with a white male majority. And I'm not sure I would agree with this assertion. While it is true that jazz journalists don't always get it correct as far as deciphering who's excellent and who's not, I would hardly label the writing as substandard. It's pretty good. You don't get to be a magazine of longevity like DownBeat, JazzTimes, and The New York City Jazz Record, without doing quality work. That's just a fact.
Having more of a presence of black writers would offer a different sensibility that would broaden the aesthetical spectrum of these magazines, and not just cosmetic diversification, which is often the case with skin-based attempts at diversity like those seen at elite schools and universities.
We can hang up our jackets of political correctness for a moment and acknowledge that there's a certain cadence present in black writers, which differs from that of white, Hispanic, and Asian writers. For some reason, acknowledging cultural and aesthetical differences between groups gets us labeled as racist. I think it's more racist, pretending that no cultural differences exist in the arts.
I'm all for diversification, as long as you're bringing excellence and something much needed to the table.
When you have to work harder, the quality of your work becomes better. Because you are producing better work than your peers, you are now raising the level of your medium. This is what happens when we value merit over melanin. And you may not like Stanley's tone or always agree with his often contrarian point of view, but you can't deny his ability to put pen to paper.
Here's another point: Imagine if the World Tennis Association had racial quotas that demanded that at least one black player had to be in the quarterfinals to make up for the injustices of slavery, there would certainly be no Venus and Serena Williams. And why would there be? They would no longer have the incentive to be the best of the best. If that kind of racial preference policy existed, the only thing the Williams sisters would need to make sure was intact would be their blackness—since that would be the main thing that they would be judged on. I call this the melanin-over-merit fallacy.
And this is one of the significant challenges of being black in America.
We don’t always feel we have the freedom to just be an individual. We are perpetually under societal pressures to be part of the black collective. More recently, we are letting white liberals define our narrative. Without aligning ourselves with this collective, whose unifying cultural glue is typically victimization, we become at a significant risk of being labeled an Uncle Tom, a coon, or a sell-out. And this is pretty scary for most blacks. We're one of the few groups that actually fear being ostracized from our race by other blacks. I've seen so many blacks play down their intelligence and social grace just so people won't think that they're not "down with the common folks." And this is one of the great tragedies of black culture. We let underclass values define the culture as a whole. We need more blacks who dare to stand up and say, "No, I'm not acting white, I'm acting normal. I'm not speaking white, I'm speaking correctly."
No one is more demonized than the black conservative (or nowadays, and old-school liberal) whose only crime is thinking differently. I remember when actress Stacy Dash was vilified by other blacks for endorsing Mitt Romney for president on Twitter. One person tweeted in response: "I like to request a trade to send Stacy Dash to the Caucasians to acquire Bill Clinton to the blacks." (Totally ignoring that we experienced one of the biggest mass incarcerations of black males during the Clinton Administration.) Another person tweeted back: "We've been letting you slide for years! It's OVER." As you can see, thinking differently about black culture, especially in politics is considered cultural-treason. Regarding Dash, my question is this: Why can't you be black, AND an airhead?
As I mentioned earlier, blacks represent roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population. However, we make up approximately 75 percent of the NBA. Is this the result of preferential drafting policies? Not. Black players are simply outperforming ALL other groups. Fortunately, for professional sports, teams are committed to winning, not looking like a rainbow coalition. And if the NBA does become more diverse, I'm sure it will be because the other groups stepped up their game. Not because of social engineering.
Meritocracy is what keeps jazz thriving. Either you can play or you can't. Being famous and getting press, those are different issues. However, as performers and composers, blacks have never needed social engineering to be a competitive or a dominant group in jazz. We've always done so the old fashion way: originality, hard work, and excellence. We didn't have to adhere to a lesser assessment model, compared to whites and Asians, the way we've had to when dealing with elite schools and universities. Some college admissions give race "bonus "points: blacks get 280 points added to their SATs, Hispanics get 180, and Asians get docked 50. Talking about the soft bigotry of low expectations. This sends a clear message that says, "We have no faith in you and your abilities." So sad.
But who knows, maybe society as a whole can learn a thing or two from the jazz world. We might look at jazz journalism 15 years from now and find that the majority of staff writers at the publications, as mentioned earlier, are Asian men and Hispanic women. If that's the case, I hope that they will be there for one and one reason only: excellent writing.
Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Thursday, May 28, 2020
The relevance of CDs is a question I've been asking myself a lot--especially in recent weeks since deciding to release three live recordings in digital-only formats. (Check them out here on BANDCAMP.)
Well, fortunately, things are opening up. Publications are now more willing to review recordings being released in the digital-only format. As I see it, this will save time, money, and certainly space. More importantly, it will afford us opportunities to be more creative and prolific.
Chris DiGirolamo: Well, Sam, I think many of us are going to see "digital-only" as the new approach. I have found a number of positives. Aside from the tremendous amount of outreach it creates, it allows the publicist to monitor who listened and who did not. Gone are the days of the artist running into a writer and them saying "I didn’t get or didn’t hear it." Sorry, brother, I have the proof right here. It is more direct and grants more information to the publicist that we never had prior. Also, let’s not forget the $800.00 in postage and the cost for 1000 CDs that become furniture you save on. It is just so much more sensible for 2020.
CG: I really think this is personal to the person. I cannot remember the last time I personally played a CD. I have hundreds of hours of music just on my phone alone. Its preference. let’s be real- it will all be digital eventually. The physical CD will become like the rabbit ear antennas we grew up with. Lol!
CD: Yes, we did. And it was difficult at that time. What basically has changed is just the timeline and technology. We are a few more years from that conversation, where many colleagues in our business have adjusted to the digital side as well. It has changed slowly and we still have a group who are still holding on to “I need my CD.” It will eventually be digi. It is a no brainer. You have all of the materials for the listener and you have saved HUGE costs. And again, we can monitor!
CD: If PR was a waste of money I would not be here for fifteen years. PR is a waste of money when the artist does not understand what the publicist is doing for them. I have seen musicians at comparable talent levels take PR and do amazing things with it. Then there are some who think their ego was hurt and it’s all BS. I use the DB critics poll as an example. If you are listed, it is amazing and you can’t believe it. (You thank Mom, the dog, etc.) If you do not get listed it is BS. Same principle. When the media digs you, PR is great. When they don’t respond as you would like, it is a waste of money. It is an opinion I respect. I never spend someone else's money.
CD: Sam I have a saying that's pretty clear. “What's the use of purchasing a new Porsche if you are going to buy it with no wheels."
CD: If someone is playing their music just to be covered, they should shut down shop NOW. You are a perfect example of that approach and dedication. You do what Sam does. We want the media to understand what YOU are doing. Sam Newsome is a “Soprano Saxophonist, Improviser, Solo Performer & Sound Enthusiast.” You do not do what you do to get press. We both know that. I am not into” shtick" thing. Musicians have put in hundreds of hours to master a skill. It has to be real. IMO. There are writers who love the “left-of-center” material, but you have to know your contacts. I think we both know them.
CD: Honestly, Sam, it really depends on the media you are serving. I am not sending your new releases to people that like the Great American Songbook. Your PR efforts should be constructed around a serviced list of people who would be interested. EVERY writer has interests that a publicist NEEDS to know. Otherwise, you are throwing it against the wall to see what sticks. Which is why publicists can get a bad rep.
CD: I believe it really is a race that print is STILL winning. Bottom line: we would rather be in the New York Times than Louie's Music Blog. I personally feel every bit of coverage is positive. Some have more value and some are to just keep the fire burning. It all has value. It may not be the value your ego needs, but it all helps.
CD: Sam, I have been saying for 20 years, the musicians need to market their live performances. Meaning record everything and release live music. Your studio material is on every streaming service for 5 cents a month. So, do something different to benefit instead of complaining about what you will NEVER change. Change the live experience for your fan base. When they get to your gig, give them a thank you card for attending with a download code on it. This could allow them to download the performance the next day from your site. It's giving, it brings people to the site and allows them to relive the event. (You also now have their contact information as well to build database.) I think what we have seen lately is how musicians all of sudden are thrilled about their streaming events. That is something else that will aid in getting more people interested.
CD: You have completely nailed it. More today than ever before you must stay on your branding. I tell every musician who wants to pursue professional music, “You now are a business owner.” You must take the approach as such. You must maintain the quality (practice and performance) and you must maintain the business side (pricing, time, etc.). You must maintain. With the new outlets that have come from COVID-19 you have no excuse.
CD: It will all be positive. When humans are all in fear-mode.We cannot see the amazing things that are actually going on. I have heard more new music than ever. I have seen musicians really expand their personal growth through streaming and social media. I have seen a number of videos where people were afraid to “open” up and post. Now they feel good about their playing as many would complement them. What about the networking that has occurred. The new teaching business’ The opportunity to now hold a rehearsal online … I could go on and on.
This is a very good time for the arts, you will see. We all lost money. Now how do we make it work? And by the way, this will happen again in another 20 years. It always is changing. I remember in 2006 every record company was closing. We were DONE! Now how many artists have been able to be heard because of that. It’s all good. Music and Bad are two words I never use. It will all be good Sam! Promise!
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