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Sam Newsome: Sopranoville: New Works for the Prepared and Non-Prepared Saxophone

Karl Ackermann By

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On his fifth solo soprano album, Sopranoville: New Works for the Prepared and Non-prepared Saxophone, Sam Newsome continues to explore and extend the utility of his instrument. This new release takes yet another new direction for Newsome whose previous solo outing The Straight Horn of Africa: A Path to Liberation/Art of the Soprano, Vol. 2 (Self-produced, 2014) provided an aural link to Africa, evoking the soul and vitality of the continent. Here, as on Art of the Soprano, Vol. 1 (Self-produced, 2012), the emphasis is on extended technique but taken to the next power.

We get a full menu of Newsome's approaches early on. "The Quiet Before the Storm" uses a technique of hanging chimes on the saxophone strap clip, having them react to the vibrations of the instrument. The effect enhances a beautiful, exotic melody. "The Doppler Effect" uses multi-tracking to create a diverse wind section and "Straight Horns of Plenty" uses the percussion of the pads—a familiar Newsome technique—but now advanced to create a melody apart from that of the reed. There are abstractions as well; "Hiss and Kiss" relies heavily on noise and "Jagged Breath" is dominated by aching, high pitched notes.

"Clicktopia, Pt. 1," the first of three parts, uses both multi-tracks and the percussive pads in the type of African rhythm found on The Straight Horn of Africa. There are classical and free jazz influences as well on "The Reed Straw Effect " and Newsome brings many of his methods together on "Micro-Suite for Fifteen Sopranos: The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly." The melodic outlier—in that extended technique does not dominate—is the melancholy tune "Deadline."

Newsome describes his music as "sound-centric" as anyone familiar with his last three recordings would recognize. In exploring the limits of the soprano he utilizes some specific "prepared" techniques that are less than high-tech. He places Scotch tape over the neck opening, puncturing it with air holes; he puts aluminum foil at the end of the bell and fashions a reed from a plastic drinking straw. Sopranoville may be highly experimental but is largely accessible and easy to appreciate.

Track Listing: The Quiet Before the Storm; The Doppler Effect; Straight Horns of Plenty; Hiss and Kiss; Clicktopia, Pt. 1; Jagged Breath; Micro-Suite for Fifteen Sopranos: The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly; Straighthorn of the Bush; Giant Steps (For Three Sopranos); Two-Man Orchestra; Soprano-Ology for Seven Straight Horns; Sunrise; The Reed Straw Effect; The Morning After; Against the Grain; Against the Grain; Cicktopia, Pt. 2; Japanese Court Music; Cicktopia, Pt. 3; The Sopranosphere; The Funhouse Effect; Deadline (Soprano with Sympathetic Resonance); The Great Debate.

Personnel: Saxophonist/composer Sam Newsome: soprano saxophone, prepared soprano saxophone.

Title: Sopranoville: New Works for the Prepared and Non-Prepared Saxophone | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Self Produced

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