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Take Five With Sam Sadigursky

AAJ Staff BY

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Meet Sam Sadigursky: Saxophonist Sam Sadigursky has played and recorded with artists as diverse as Ray Brown and Brad Mehldau. He is the winner of the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award (2003, 2005), the NFAA/IAJE Clifford Brown/Stan Getz Fellowship (1997), and the John Coltrane Young Artist Award (1996). Currently residing in Brooklyn, New York, he performs in many top jazz venues, Broadway pits and has toured the U.S., Europe, Canada, and Japan. He has also played in the Monterey, JVC, Aspen, Ravinia, and CMJ festivals and is featured playing saxophone and flute on the score to the film Seeing Other People. He can be heard in New York with the Mingus Orchestra, Gabe Kahane, Lucia Pulido, Edmar Castaneda, and Folklore Urbano. In 2007, a collection of his vocal compositions based on poetry, entitled The Words Project, was released on New Amsterdam Records. For more information, visit

Instrument(s): saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet.

Teachers and/or influences? I grew up hearing my mother, a classical pianist, practice much of the major classical repertoire and teach lessons, which was a big influence, as was the music that was played around the house. I was lucky to have a great teacher as a kid who lived very close by, Vince Trombetta. Originally from Philadelphia, he taught generations of saxophone players from there, including Michael Brecker, and played with people from Louis Armstrong to Bill Evans. I later studied with with Armen Donelian, Marianne Gythfeldt (a classical clarinetist), Dave Demsey, Jon Gordon, and Eddie Salkin (the woodwind guru in New York).

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I realized I was not good enough to join the NBA.

Your sound and approach to music: This is hard to answer, as it constantly is evolving and transforming, depending on who I am performing with, listening too, what I am practicing, what my mood is... In jazz, in order for me to enjoy it, what I am hearing, despite any constraints and limitations, must give me the feeling of the moment, that if I heard it on another night that it would feel different in some way. Too often, I feel that compositions are becoming sorts of "etudes for jazz ensemble," seeking to impress the audience, ignoring the spontaneity in jazz. The composition and approach often leaves no room for wiggling around and experimenting, and this is not what jazz is about to me.

Your teaching approach: As Dorothy DeLay said, "Teach the student, not the subject."

Your dream band: I am so fortunate to play with a great community of musicians in New York. When I have anything as a leader, there are so many individuals to choose from, it can be troubling to choose among them... My dream at this point is to be part of working groups that tour extensively and stay together. It is becoming more and more difficult for this to happen, which is very challenging to us as artists if we are to feel we are coming close to the things which came before us. We all have to have so much on our plate constantly to stay busy that it can be difficult to give some things the attention they deserve before it is necessary to move on to the next. Great music, like any great art, takes time, nurturing, and abandon, and this requires opportunity.

Anecdote from the road: My first professional tour was with a blues band right after high school. We did eight thousand miles in two weeks in an old Chevy Suburban, playing mostly biker bars with the occasional festival thrown in. A lot to take in for a litte suberban eighteen year-old.

Favorite venue: As New York seems to come increasingly more "pay-to-play," there are still some great venues here. Favorites of mine are Cornelia St. Cafe, 55 Bar, Smalls, and Barbes.

How do you use the internet to help your career? My website has been useful and getting my music out there. Also, New Amsterdam Records will unveil a new website in the fall that will have a lot of content possibilities, which I am very excited to contribute to. MySpace has become a great hub for musicians as well. Obviously, the web is totally essential for all sorts of bookings and communication with other musicians. It has been empowering for musicians to say the least, but can be quite consuming.

CDs you are listening to now: Paul Hindemith/Kim Kaskashian, Sonatas for Solo Viola (ECM); Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Neruda Songs: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson sings Peter Lieberson (Nonesuch); Reid Anderson, Dirty Showtunes (Fresh Sound New Talent); Sonny Rollins, Way Out West (Prestige); Coba, Cancion Mandala (Chonta).

What is in the near future? Most of my creative energy has been going into The Words Project. I just released a CD on New Amsterdam Records ( of ten settings of contemporary and classic poems (Donald Justice, Paul Auster, Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandelshtam, Maxine Kumin, Penelope Shutte, and others), and have a growing number of new settings that I hope to record in the next year. I am very busy promoting this group, and also play with a number of other groups right now, including Folklore Urbano, Gabe Kahane (a brilliant young pianist/composer/singer), Coba, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, Rob Mosher's Storytime, and occasionally with virtuoso Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda.

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