Sam Newsome: The Straight Horn of Africa: A Path to Liberation

Karl Ackermann By

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Sam Newsome's The Straight Horn of Africa: A Path to Liberation (subtitled "Art of the Soprano, Vol. 2") is—despite the chronology—the fourth solo outing by the alto/tenor-turned-soprano saxophonist. The self-produced Monk Abstractions (2007) and Blue Soliloquy (2009) were highly regarded entries that preceded The Art of the Soprano, Vol. 1 (2012). The latter album saw Newsome using layering techniques that allowed him to add a percussion element effectively derived from tapping keys.

To suit the objectives of The Straight Horn of Africa..., Newsome's use of technical layering has been protracted to include multi-phonics that create the impression a larger group. However, the twenty-one relatively short tracks are not meant to be an exercise in the capabilities of the soprano—the straight horn—but an auditory conduit to Africa, meeting Newsome's ambitious goal to evoke the soul and vitality of the continent.

There are number of functional titles where Newsome's technical skills enable him to generate sounds outside the normal scope of the instrument. "N.D. Nile" runs the range of the sax pausing to tap out a chant-like pattern whereas "The Snake Charmer of Tangier" approximates the traditional serpentine swirl of a pungi. On other pieces such as "Dark Continent Dialogues," a jungle environment is simulated and on "African Nomads" one can sense Bedouins' loping movements across the Sahara.

The music on The Straight Horn of Africa... does not drop directly into defined topographical areas but uses Africa as a jumping point to explore the extrapolation of native forms into the wider world of music. There are complex pieces such as "The Obama Song: The Man from Kenya" that require an open mind and others like the disconnected four-part series, "Microtonal Nubian Horn," that are peculiarly hypnotic. "Highlife"—the uplifting closing composition—is one of the few tunes that imparts a consistent regional flavor.

The Straight Horn of Africa: A Path to Liberation, while highly experimental, is more accessible when taken as the musical journey it is intended to be. As a sociological experiment, the album humanizes the many diverse musical influences of Africa by incorporating them into avant-garde treatments that gives them a larger platform in the world. Newsome is tireless in his pursuit of new and open views of music, his instrument and the bigger picture. He continues to be one of the most adventurous artists in music.

Track Listing: Echoes From Mt. Kilamanjaro; The Straight Horn Of Africa; Explorations Of An African Horn, Part 1; The Obama Song: The Man From Kenya; Ethiopian Jews; Explorations Of An African Horn: Part 2; The Snake Charmer Of Tangier; Microtonal Nubian Horn: Part 1; Good Golly Miss Mali; African Conundrum; Sounds Of Somalia; When The Drum Speaks; Microtonal Nubian Horn: Part 2; Dark Continent Dialogues; African Nomads; Microtonal Nubian Horn: Part 3; Nightfal On The Owani Desert; The Day In The Life Of A Hunter Gatherer; Microtonal Nubian Horn: Part 4; Highlife.

Personnel: Sam Newsome: soprano saxophone.

Title: The Straight Horn of Africa: A Path to Liberation | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Self Produced

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