Sam Newsome

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

Video Feature: Sam Newsome, Ben Stapp, and Joanna Mattrey

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Playing Monk and Ellington: The Art of Less

Here's a little Monk/Ellington suite that I recorded at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for their 2013 New Music Festival. This concert is a good study because it proves the point that less is more--or at least shows you how "less" allows you to make a more concise and definitive statement.

For example, this performance is 18:55 in length, but I managed to touch on six different pieces in this limited amount of time. This is one of the reasons why there are few dead spots. Dead spots are areas of a performance where there is little to no momentum and you're starting to lose the interest of the listener.

Below is the time breakdown of all of the pieces to give you a better idea.

  1. Piece one is five minutes and ten seconds
  2. Piece two is forty seconds
  3. Piece three is two minutes and seven seconds
  4. Piece four is two minutes and nineteen seconds
  5. Piece five is seventy-five seconds
  6. Piece six is eight minutes and thirty-five seconds

Sophisticated Lady
0:00 – 5:10
Improvisation #1
5:10 – 5:50
5:51 – 7:18
Ask Me Now
7:20 – 9:39
Improvisaton #2
9:40 – 10:15
In a Sentimental Mood
10:20 – 18:55

I imagine had I tacked on an additional two minutes to each if these pieces, it would have totally changed the pacing, and probably made it a little less interesting. With the current pacing, I can listen to this for repeated listenings. However, if it were longer, I'm not sure that would be the case. This performance also demonstrates my basic approach to constructing solo concerts and recordings:

(1) start off moderate;

(2) move quickly through the middle;

(3) and end big!

Of course, there are deviations, but this is the basic outline.

We have our entire careers to get to our "shit," as they say. All of our hip stuff doesn't have to be laid out in a single concert. It's nothing wrong with leaving them wanting more. I think of it as the perpetual encore.


Oh yeah, and I'll be performing this Sunday, January 15, 2017, at the Downtown Music Gallery. It will be a  double-bill with alto saxist Mikko Innanen, who will also be performing solo. Showtime is at 6:00 PM.

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