Sam Newsome

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

The 55 Bar - Thursday, July 25, 2019

A Noise From The Deep: A Greenleaf Music Podcast with Dave Douglas

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Improvisation Workshop Project (IWP): Redefining Jazz Composition

Sam Newsome and Kevin Dean: Photo by Conor Nickerson
Last week, violinist Meg Okura and I had the pleasure of visiting McGill University in Montreal, Canada, to participate in the Improvisation Workshop Project (IWP), the brainchild of pianist and McGill University professor, Jean-Michel Pilc.  The IWP brings together musicians of all backgrounds and experience levels (students and professional musicians, jazz and classical) to explore the tradition of jazz as “improvised chamber music” based on collective improvisation.

The project includes weekly playing sessions that brings to together diverse groups of musicians to try new ideas and interpret new material brought in by Jean-Michel Pilc and other participants. Using an “improvisation as instant composition" approach and the collective improvisational process, the IWP investigates how such diverse disciplines as composition, orchestration, musical interpretation and improvisation combine organically into a coherent whole in jazz music, and also how a diverse lineup of musicians can hold natural and meaningful musical conversations. 

The project's innovative research approach involves thorough documentation of the creative improvisation process, including post-playing session journals logged by all participants, allowing them to share their thoughts on the artistic process. By drawing from musicians’ insider perspectives, this archive provides a unique research resource for the study of improvisation-composition within a variable medium-size jazz ensemble.

This performance took place on Saturday, February 23, 2019, at 8pm @ Tanna Schulich Hall of Schulich School of Music of McGill University. It featured two groups made up of some on Montreal's finest improvisers. Violinist Meg Okura and I were the two invited guests from New York City.

And what's really impressive about this gathering is not so much that it's all improvised, but the clarity and musicality that's achieved throughout. It has certainly made me rethink jazz composition.


Group 1
Meg Okura (violin)
Sam Newsome (soprano saxophone)
Kevin Dean (trumpet)
Jonathan Orland (alto saxophone)
Juan Sebastian Delgado (cello)
Pierre Mendola (flute)
Cole Birney-Stewart (bass)
Michel Lambert (drums)
Jean-Michel Pilc (piano and conducting)

Group 2
Meg Okura (violin)
Sam Newsome (soprano saxophone)
Kevin Dean (trumpet)
Jonathan Orland (alto saxophone)
Annie Dominique (bass clarinet & tenor saxophone) 
Edouard Touchette (trombone) 
Summer Kodama (bass) 
Thom Gossage (drums)
Jean-Michel Pilc (piano and conducting)

* The IWP is funded by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC).

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