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Meet Sam Newsome

By Published: August 3, 2007

AAJ: What was the critical response? Did you get a lot of reviews?

SN: I didn't get a lot. You know, they thought it was interesting instrumentation. But a lot of times there were references to what Leon Parker had put out maybe six months before. So, I think a little bit of it was like, "Oh yeah, this is like what Leon was doing." So, I felt like they never really gave it up. Like if mine had come out first they would have seen it more as being an original thing. But since it came out after Leon's it was kind of perceived as, "Oh yeah, he's kind of doing that Leon thing."

AAJ: So they didn't really give it a close examination?

SN: I don't think so.

AAJ: Why don't you think the public didn't take to it like you hoped?

SN: Maybe my role on it wasn't—I think maybe because it was so band oriented. Maybe they don't really realize that it was me that made this whole thing happen. You just think of it as a band and I'm playing and everyone else is playing but I'm not really playing that much more spectacularly than everybody else it's just kind of all in the same realm and I just happen to be on the cover. So I think it was a lot of that. I don't think there was a real star on the record.

AAJ: So what happens now? Do you see a future for the group without a major label behind you?

SN: Oh, definitely. I guess the thing that it's actually taught me is that I was maybe putting too much focus on the band and maybe not enough on myself. Because even at the time—I don't know if it was like some psychological thing like maybe you get something like and you think maybe at some level you don't deserve it so you kind of feel like if you bring a whole bunch of people with you. It makes it easier. It's just like, "Oh, it's not just me, it's us." I don't know, maybe it was some of that, but it taught me, you know—I feel like I have to be the focus. It's good because it's made me really focus on my playing more. And it's caused me to grow just as a person. So I feel more confident and strong and I feel like I'm playing a lot better than a year ago and people are calling me more as a sideman. And I'm starting better reviews from stuff I've done as a sideman than probably what I got from my own record, just as far as people talking about my playing. So I think in the long run, by me focusing on my own playing—I don't know—I think it's more of a foundation. I guess you need some kind of main character or star just for people to be able to relate to. There has to be some kind of central focus. I guess I just really wasn't into it.

AAJ: Why do you think that was?

SN: In some ways it was more of a challenge to see all of these other members of your band as just sort of an extension of your voice. I felt like as far as playing is concerned I thought I could just practice and it would come. Maybe my ego got too far out of hand. You know how you can get to where you just feel like you can do anything. I guess I've learned that I can't.

AAJ: If you've shifted your focus toward your own playing, how do you apply that to Global Unity?

SN: By me using other people as an extension of my voice, a lot of times they weren't soloists. I hired people who focused more on creating textures and accompanying than soloing. Now, I'm looking to bring more people into the band to play the role of a soloist more than accompanist. By me surrounding myself with players who are going to kick me in the ass while I'm playing, it just makes me take it to the next level. So I'm going to restructure it so it's more full of soloists. I'm thinking about maybe adding a violinist, and I've started working with the piano some. In some ways I feel like I'm coming full circle.

Selected Discography:

Monk Abstractions (SomeNew Music)

Sam Newsome & Global Unity (Columbia/Sony)

Sam Newsome's Groove Project 24/7 (Satchmo Jazz)

Global Unity (Palmetto)

Sam Newsome & Global Unity (Columbia/Sony)

This Masquerade (Steeplechase)

The Tender Side of Sammy Straighthorn (Steeplechase)

Collective Identity/THE MASS (Palmetto)

Sam I Am (Criss Cross)

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