Sam Newsome

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

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Michel Doneda: Soprano Saxophonist and Sound Artist

I've been a fan of soprano saxophonist Michel Doneda since discovering his music around five to six years ago.  Michel and fellow soprano player Bhob Rainey are two players whom I view as being beyond just free jazz soprano saxophonists; these guys are sound artists.

Michel, who hails from Toulouse, in the south of France, has been a pillar on the European improvised music scene since the early 1980s. Some of his closest collaborators over the last thirty years include singer Beñat Achiary, percussionist Lê Quan Ninh, hurdy-gurdy player Dominique Regef, and bassist Barre Phillips.

Michel is one of my go-to guys for extended techniques. I'm particularly interested in his use of sound clusters, playing two to three extended techniques once, creating these really unique clusters of sound.

Here are just a few that I've discovered:

1) multi-phonics played with the flutter tongue
2) air sounds with key clicks 
3) playing in the altissimo with a flutter tongue and throat growl. 
4) swaying the horn from side to side while playing multiphonics
5) playing kissing sounds with reeds squeaks

And he's also known for his economical use of space. He might improvise for a good 10 minutes before playing any line or conventional melody.

This video features him in a trio with guitarist John Russell and drummer Roger Turner during a 2011 performance at London's Vortex Jazz Club, which has been the city's foremost presenter of contemporary and free jazz since 1987.

Here you can hear his extraordinary control of air sounds (and it's not easy to play them with such velocity and at different dynamic levels) as well as his extensive use of the flutter tongue.

This is just one of the series of soprano players I'll be featuring over the next few months.

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