Sam Newsome

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

Monday, August 26, 2019

Zen Parable: Maybe (Embracing Indifference)

Zen parable: Maybe
 Once upon a time, there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.

Maybe," the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.

"Maybe," replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

"Maybe," answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was injured, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

"Maybe," said the farmer.

This story is a reminder that there's a natural order to life. Within this order, there are highs and lows, sunny days and cloudy days, good times, and bad times. We do not know whether these events in our lives will bring good fortune or misfortune. These things are out of our control. Life is a perfect chain of events, connected by perfectly arranged, imperfect links.

For the events that happened in the farmer's life, he had the wisdom not to get too excited about happy events, nor too upset over the negative ones--for all were necessary for his journey. And where each of these events eventually led, were revealed in due time.

As musicians, we must approach our music and careers with the same wisdom. Whether we're seeking the high-profile gig, the sweet record deal, top billing on festivals, or accolades from those in the industry, we should not put too much importance in any of these. Some of these things will lead to our happiness; some will leave us perpetually sad. And as demonstrated in the story about the farmer, you never know.

I used to be roommates with a guy named John, who also approached life in this way. John was textbook-skeptic. Every time something seemingly good happened, he would always respond with, "We'll see." Our conversations we're usually Like this:

Me: Hey John, your two-week tour in Europe should be exciting!
John: We'll see.
Me: John, when your record comes out, that's going to be some great exposure.
John: We'll see.
Me: John, your new girlfriend, seems charming.
John: We'll see.

John was as a skeptic on crack! He was never really emotionally invested one way or the other. Today, however, I understand his feelings.

Thinking about all of these things takes me back to 1999 when I got signed to a record deal with Columbia/Sony. I finally felt that I had a chance of having a career as a solo artist. Unfortunately, I was dropped from the label a year later. As you can imagine, I was pretty devastated. But like the unfortunate events in the farmer's life, this, too, ended up being a blessing in disguise.

Losing my recording contract taught me a couple of things: One, relying on others to build a career for me was too risky and compromising. While on the label, I always in the backseat of the car, never behind the steering wheel. Artistically speaking, being dropped, forced me to dig deeper into finding my sound.

Playing solo taught me how to be exciting as a player and tap into that which is uniquely me. And now I find I'm able to connect with players and listeners in almost any context. I would never have discovered this with my group, Global Unity. I was preoccupied with trying to project my vision through the members of my band, not my instrument. So where I lost an opportunity to have a successful career as a solo artist and bandleader, what I gained was a musical voice--which is much more valuable.

As musicians, we must approach life, our music, and careers with a certain level of indifference. Like the farmer, we must not get too emotionally invested, one way or the other. Our story and the impact of our music will continue long after we're gone. That album you released that only got two stars in Downbeat, might change lives decades later. That tune that you wrote, last minute, might define your legacy. You never know.

Music of the Free World: Getting High and Low with Sam Newsome and Dave Sewelson

Check out my fun interview will baritone saxophonist/radio host Dave Sewelson on WFMU. For three hours, we listened to my earlier work with Global Unity, my work with the Collective Identity Saxophone Quartet, newer and older solo saxophone outings, and we got into some pretty happening on-air improvisational duets!


Approx. start time
Sam Newsome 
It's Not The Size of the Horn, It's How You Swing It  
Sam Newsome & Global Unity 
Sam Newsome 
Marching Towards Insanity 
Chaos Theory 
Some New Music 
Fay Victor's SoundNoiseFUNK 
Creative Folks 
Wet Robots 
Sam Newsome 
Monk Abstractions 
Some New Music 
Sam Newsome 
Blues for Robert Johnson 
Blue Soliloquy 
Some New Music 
Blues People 
Rare Metal 
Sam Newsome 
Echos From Mt Kilimanjaro 
The Art of the Soprano Vol.2 
Some New Music 
Sam Newsome 
The Straight Horn of Africa 
The Art of the Soprano Vol.2 
Some New Music 
Sam Newsome 
Monk's Dream
GTDS Records and Tapes 
Sam Newsome / Dave Sewelson 
GTDS Records and Tapes 
collective identity 
The World According to Shaquana Goldstein
The Mass 
Sam Newsome 
Sam Newsome & Global Unity 
Sam Newsome / Dave Sewelson 
GTDS Records and Tapes 
Sam Newsome 
The Doppler Effect 
Some New Music 
Sam Newsome
Chiming In 
Chaos Theory 
Some New Music 
Meg Okura 
New Music 
Sam Newsome 
Giant Steps  
GTDS Records and Tapes 

Friday, August 23, 2019

A WALK IN THE REEDS by George W, Harris

* A new review in Jazz Weekly by Geroge W. Harris.

A WALK IN THE REEDS…Sam Newsome: Chaos Theory

Sam Newsome is the reigning champ of preaching the message about the soprano sax. He is usually in solo or duet form, with this latest album featuring him exploring just about every part of the straight sax, teamed with “preparations” alongside. Not only does he explore the mouthpiece and reed with pops, slurs and tongue snaps as on “Urban Location,” “Seven Points of Reference” or ‘Bubble Mute Boogie,” but he uses these sounds as part of the percussive rhythm as well.

Other times, he creates tweeks, subtones and squeals on his “Solo” and “Chaos Theory” moments, sometimes making rich melodies and other times digging into deep magma. It’s a thrilling journey into the visceral of the straight sax.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Communities: Avenues for Sharing

Many know that I'm often advocating for folks to do their own thing. But on the flip side, I'm equally a proponent of forming and being part of a community. If necessary, create in isolation, but share your findings with the masses.

There are three types of communities that we tend to align ourselves with:

1. Internal communities: our sources of inspiration that exist primarily in our hearts and minds. Folks whose music, philosophy, and vision we've internalized deeply.

2. Virtual communities: Those with whom we interact online, usually through social media.

2. External communities: those with whom we interact in person. 

Ultimately, human to human relationships tend to be most impactful. But these are not always feasible. And sometimes they can be more trouble than they're worth. Which is why it's essential to recognize and to be open to the other two types of communities mentioned. 

As far as defining a community, I see it like this:

  • One person: Alone
  • Two persons: Having a conversation
  • Three persons: Being brought together by shared values.
  • Four or more: Now, you've got yourself a community!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Musical Aging: A Four (4) Step Process

Aging is something we all have to deal with every day--or every second if you really want to get neurotic about it. Comparable to biological aging, there are actually different facets of aging that we move through when we play music.

Four (4) musical ages:

  • Chronological musical age
  • Developmental musical age
  • Artistic musical age
  • Mastery
Chronological musical age: This is simply how long we've been playing. If we've been playing for 20 years, then our musical age is 20. 

Developmental age: This is a measurement of our overall skill sets. I want to add that these are the skills comparable to others who've been playing equally as long. When I was a Berklee, one of my classmates was British saxophonist Tommy Smith. At the time, Tommy was only 16-years old and had only been playing the tenor saxophone and jazz for four years. So even though his chronological musical age was only four years, his developmental age was at least 15 years. He was pretty scary. 

Artistic musical age: Simply put, this is our personal voice, artistic vision, and our unique sense of style. Some are fortunate have this from the start. Some never develop it. And some develop it much later in life. Drawing from my own story, I began to embark on this when I switched to the soprano. This was a paradoxical stage in that my chronological soprano saxophone age was relatively young, yet my artistic age was much more advanced.

Mastery: This is when music if life and life is music. Mastery is never an easily attainable one. You have to put in the time chronologically, developmentally, artistically, and spiritually. Even when you arrive, you may not even realize it. I imagine you increase your chances when arriving at this age when you live a life devoted to high-level performance and illuminating teaching.

Summary: It’s important to remember that one doesn’t guarantee the other. You might have a chronological musical age of 30 years, yet, your artistic age might be that of someone who’s been playing for 10 years or fewer. I call these types, professional students. They never really grow conceptually, they just continue getting faster, cleaner, and playing more stuff. There was a time when these types were not revered as one of the cats. One typically had to dig deeper to be held in such esteem. Today is a new paradigm. We’ve embraced a culture of what I call green masters.

Dissimilarly, some, even if they lack the technical prowess and vocabulary vastness, will arrive at an advanced artistic age much earlier in life, due to talent and vision.

Musical aging can be a process with many layers. The important thing is knowing where you’re at, where you’re going, and where you need to be. 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Art: The Three (3) Cycles of Functionality

A little something about art. 

Over the years, I've observed that art usually passes through three (3) cycles of functionality.

Cycle 1: Starts as a perspective. Cycle 2: Becomes a movement. Cycle 3: Settles into a tradition. 

Cycle 1 often starts with one or maybe a few people who have a different point of view about what’s happening around then.—or at least a different vision for the future. This stage is often difficult for the ones leading the way, for they are often moving against the tide with little to no support.

Cycle 2 happens after the few brave (perhaps even foolish) folks have stayed the course, created enough of a stir that others felt compelled to follow their lead. Serving as a mouthpiece for a new generation. Thus, creating a movement. 

Cycle 3 happens over time, once the idea has run its course. You might say when it has lost its element of surprise and has become predictable. Often times it has become codified and organized into easily teachable concepts. Sort of like jazz. 

But first things first. Before we can even think about Cycle 3, we have to do the following:

Take chances;
Think differently; 
Recycle our fear into courage!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Yes, You May: Giving Yourself Permission

In 2008, soon-to-be-president Barack Obama's popular slogan was "Yes, We Can." For many, this was very empowering and uplifting. And this worked great for voters. However, as artists and creative folks, a more suitable slogan for us is "Yes, You May."

The latter is appealing to a slightly different sensibility. Obama's slogan is telling a group of people that they can collectively accomplish something. My slogan simply gives you permission to. Or more importantly, it asks you to give yourself permission to go for it.

This is often the creative stumbling block for most of us. We often know WHAT to do. We know HOW to do it. But we simply have not given ourselves permission to do so. I've often had great ideas, that I would immediately talk myself out of implementing. For most of them, it was never the case of not knowing how to bring those things to fruition. It was often me not allowing myself to.

Fear is usually the culprit.  The fear of putting ourselves out there on the limb and being judged as a result. For many, it's better to fail following the rules, than to take the risk of possibly not succeding by straying from the norm.

I have a few thoughts regarding fear:
1. Don't try to conquer your fear, embrace it.
2. Don't make fear your archrival, make it your muse.
3. If you stop being afraid, start doing something else that fears you.
4. Lastly: Complacency leads to more complacency. Fear leads to growth and more insight.

As I see it, fear is simply an acronym for:

Figuring out
Angle to

I realize that all of this is easier said than done. And like everything else, learning to accommodate fear takes practice. It's like having a co-worker that you bump heads with. The solution is not always to rid one of you from the equation, but by acknowledging that your relationship is complicated and dealing with it.

So, looking at doing something new, something adventurous?

Yes, You May!
Yes, You May!
Yes, You May!

The only thing stopping YOU is YOU.

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...