Sam Newsome

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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

61st Annual Downbeat Critics Poll

First of all, kudos to Wayne Shorter for winning in the Jazz Artist, Jazz Album, Jazz Group, and Soprano Sax categories.This was definitely the year of Wayne Shorter. I was also happy to see that I got a nice placement in the Soprano Saxophone category. The number four spot is not a bad place to be, especially when the top three spots are occupied by Wayne Shorter, Dave Liebman, and Branford Marsalis. This is especially exciting for me, since I didn't even place in the Soprano Sax category until three years ago. And of course, I was way at the bottom. But hey, I was happy just to be recognized. I played the soprano exclusively for almost five years before critics stop speaking of me as a tenor player who plays the soprano. I imagine at this point, they've realized that I'm never coming back--at least no time soon.

But I would like to thank all of the critics who voted for me. And I'd especially like to give a shout out to all the devotees of the straight-horn who are helping to give the soprano its long overdue presence as a primary instrument and not some secondary horn played by tenor and alto saxophonists on waltzes and straight-eighth ballads.

And I'm purposefully not mentioning the Rising Star category. I think it has become somewhat of a joke over the years. At times, I feel it's treated as a throwaway category. It doesn't seem like much thought goes into who they vote for. But hopefully, if we have enough soprano players putting out recordings and having a real presence, critics will start to vote more responsibly. 

On a more positive note, I'll be featuring the music of some of the aforementioned soprano players in the upcoming weeks. So please keep a look out for that. 

In the meantime, keep recording, keep performing, and keep the straighthorn-bell displayed high and proud!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Fruition-Realization Formula

Being a jazz musician requires us to be somewhat of a visionary--on small and large scales. The improvisatory nature of the music forces us to envision far beyond what's there. And there are different levels of envisioning. There's envisioning how to navigate your way through a set of chord changes; envisioning how to compose a tune: and some take it as far as envisioning a new concept. And envisioning an idea is one thing; however, bringing it to fruition is another. 

Experience has taught me that in order to bring an idea or vision to fruition, three things must be in order: (1) a clear mind, (2) a clear vision, and (3) the skills to execute. 

In other words, a clear mind + clear vision + skills to execute = fruition.

And I don't mean to presume that having these three things guarantee success, but they do increase the likelihood of success.

(1) A clear mind:
If you think of the creative mind as a canvass, it would be very difficult to create anything new if your canvass is cluttered with other things. Simply put, junk. And these things could be anything from negative thoughts to past and future endeavors. Having a completely clear mind can take years of practice. I suggest aiming at having a less-cluttered mind. It's at least a good place to start. 
(2) A clear vision:
If you're not sure of where you want to go or how to get there, you're almost certain to be derailed off your path. Racecar drivers are taught that if their car goes into a tailspin, they should always keep their eyes on where they want to go. If their focus is on driving into a wall, then they probably will. 

(3) Skills to execute:
This may be one of the most important components of the fruition-realization equation. You might have a clear mind, a clear idea of what you want to do, but if you don't have the skills to execute it, bringing it to fruition is not very likely. Just imagine you're going a vacation and you know exactly where you want to go, you have a map explaining exactly how to get there, yet, you have no gas in the car. It might make things a tad bit difficult.

So the next time you set out to realize an idea or vision, make sure you run it through this checklist. It could mean the difference between hitting your mark and hitting a wall.

Embracing Authentic Confidence, Beyond the Illusion of Perfection

My struggles with confidence has been a constant companion throughout my life's journey, with and without my horn. I certainly have my g...