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Take Five With Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome By

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Meet Sam Newsome:
One of the more important soprano saxophonists of his generation, Sam Newsome emerged onto the scene as a member of Terence Blanchard's quintet in the early 1990s, Newsome really hit his artistic stride when he began releasing a series of solo saxophone recordings expanding the sonic terrain of the soprano sax: Monk Abstractions (2007), Blue Soliloquy (2009), and The Art of the Soprano, Vol.1 (2012). Newsome is known for his extensive use of extended techniques such as multiphonics, circular breathing, percussive slap tonguing, and playing in the altissimo register of the instrument.

Instrument(s):
Soprano sax.

Teachers and/or influences?
My main influences on the soprano sax are Steve Lacy, Evan Parker and Wayne Shorter. However, this list can easily be extended into the realms of John Coltrane, Roscoe Mitchell, Lucky Thompson and many others.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I knew I wanted to be a musician while I was in junior high. The moment was when I took a solo during our winter concert. I had such a high from the experience that it took me three days to come down. You might say that I've been a performance junkie ever since.

Your sound and approach to music:
My approach is what I call sound-centered. My interests fall more in the realm of sonic exploration than playing lines and standard jazz vocabularies. That being said, my motto is musicality first, everything else second.

Your dream band:
My dream band would be a soprano quartet with Steve Lacy, Wayne Shorter, Roscoe Mitchell, and myself.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
One important thing that I'm contributing musically is helping to bring awareness to the soprano saxophone and all of its underexplored possibilities. This is one of the primary reasons for my devotion to the solo saxophone format. It's not to sell CDs, but to raise awareness and provoke thought.

Did you know...
When I first moved to New York I had aspirations of being a stand-up comic. I used to go to open mic night on a regular basis. I eventually realized that music was my real calling.

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
We live in one of the most alive and vibrant musical times ever. Never, in the history of jazz, have there been more people listening to and playing music. The record industry might be dead, but the music is very much alive.

What is in the near future?
In January of 2013, I'm planning to record a duo record with The Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson. We've done three gigs so far, and the music just keeps getting better and better. So look out for our new release in 2013.

Also, on December 22 and 23, 2012 I'll be recording a live record for the Smalls Record label. I'll be performing with Xavier Davis on piano, Gregg August on bass, and E.J. Strickland on drums. The release date is TBA.

What's your greatest fear when you perform?
My greatest fear when performing is that I'm not reaching the listener. If no one is being touch by what I'm doing, it seems almost a moot point.

By Day:
By day I'm a college professor. I teach jazz studies in LIU Brooklyn. I've been overseeing the jazz department there for over six years.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a writer. Writing is what I do when I'm not playing. I think when I retire from music, I'll definitely start writing full time.

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Sam Newsome

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