Sam Newsome and Jean-Michel Pilc: Magic Circle

Hrayr Attarian By

Sign in to view read count
Sam Newsome and Jean-Michel Pilc: Magic Circle
Intimate, innovative and captivating Magic Circle is an album of duets between soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome and pianist Jean-Michel Pilc. Although they perform primarily standards their interpretations are anything but conventional. Both musicians are known for their individual styles and singular approaches to improvisation and they showcase these superbly on the current disc.

Pianist and bandleader Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" opens with almost baroque refrains of Newsome's rich, meditative saxophone. Pilc's tolling piano provides a dark undertone. When Newsome and Pilc finally launch into the actual melody they endow it with melancholic dissonance and perfectly expose the timeless vibrancy of Ellington's masterpiece.

Elsewhere, Pilc's crystalline, blues-tinged keys and Newsome's angular, crisp lines reconstruct pianist Thelonious Monk's "Misterioso" with inventiveness and deference. Pilc seamlessly and with whimsy weaves in quotes from Monk's "Crepuscule with Nellie." Newsome's bittersweet tones blow with reserved passion over Pilc's resonant pianism.

There are two originals on the recording one of which is the mystical title track. Pilc plays dramatic note clusters that echo against Newsome's unfettered flittering soprano. Newsome injects into his contemplative song atonal wails and sharp, heartfelt harmonic fragments. Pilc's expectant rolling chords underscore the turbulence of Newsome's acerbic, emotive solo.

One of the gems on this uniformly brilliant recording is saxophonist John Coltrane's "Giant Steps." Pilc recreates the main theme from a flood of arpeggio filled phrases. Newsome deftly manipulates the piece adding intriguing ideas and peppering it with his own spontaneity. The constant metamorphosis of the duos rendition is in keeping with Coltrane's adventurous spirit.

There are many other exquisite readings of these jazz classics, none, however are like Magic Circle. The uniqueness of this Newsome and Pilc collaboration lies in the way they reconstruct these works, expressing free-flowing individuality and simultaneously exposing the ingenuity of the compositions themselves.

Track Listing

Autumn Leaves; In a Sentimental Mood; Giant Steps; In a Mellow Tone; Magic Circle; Misterioso; Auto-Schediasm; Out of Nowhere; Ask Me Now.


Sam Newsome: soprano saxophone; Jean-Michel Pilc: piano.

Album information

Title: Magic Circle | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Self Produced

Post a comment about this album



Shop Amazon


Read People Flow
People Flow
Erik Verwey
Read Kites and Strings
Kites and Strings
Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project
Read Borrowed From Children
Borrowed From Children
Paul Flaherty / Mike Roberson / Randall Colbourne / James Chumley Hunt

All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.