Sam Newsome (Bucharest, Romania)
|Genres||Jazz, world music, experimental|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, Composer, Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies|
|Labels||Columbia/Sony, Palmetto, Criss Cross, Steeplechase|
|Associated acts||Sam Newsome & Global Unity, Sam Newsome Quartet|
Sam Newsome (born April 28, 1965) is an American jazz saxophonist and composer. His music combines an eclectic mix of straight-ahead jazz, world music (drawing influences from North Africa and East Asia) and extended techniques. Newsome is assistant professor of jazz studies at Long Island University – Brooklyn Campus.
Newsome was born in Salisbury, Maryland and began playing the alto saxophone at age nine. His family moved to Hampton, Virginia a few years later. At age 13, Newsome switched to the tenor saxophone when he joined his junior high school jazz ensemble. A few years later, while in high school, he played in a top 40 garage band called Fantasy One with classmate bassist James Genus. Saxophonist Steve Wilson, who was a former member of the group, taught Newsome jazz theory after school.
He studied Jazz Composition & Arranging at the Berklee College of Music from 1983 to 1987 under Bill Pierce, George Garzone, Andy McGhee, and Hal Crook. Some of his classmates were Javon Jackson, Danilo Perez, Delfeayo Marsalis, Mark Turner, Julian Joseph and Donny McCaslin.
Recommended by composer/pianist Donald Brown—his former jazz ensemble teacher while at Berklee—he toured Europe with trumpeter Donald Byrd during the summer of 1987. Other members on Byrd's quintet were bassist Ron McWorter, and drummer Billy Kilson. Newsome settled in New York City.
Newsome, while leading his group at the after hours jam session at the Blue Note caught the attention of trumpeter Terence Blanchard. He was asked to joined Blanchard's band and performed with the quintet from 1989 to 1994 recording several CDs on (Columbia/Sony) including Terence Blanchard, Simply Stated, and the Malcolm X Jazz Suite. Other members of Blanchard's quintet were pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Rodney Whitaker (and later Tarus Mateen) and drummer Troy Davis. His debut recording as a leader, Sam I Am, appeared in 1990 and named one of the top 10 CDs of the year by New York Times jazz critic Peter Watrous.
In 1995 Newsome decided to concentrate exclusively on soprano saxophone. He formed Motivic Development, a jazz/world music trio with bassist Yosuke Inoue, drummer Matt Wilson, and later adding percussionist Joao Vincent Lewis.
In 1996, Newsome reconfigured his ensemble and added vocalist Elisabeth Kontomanou, bassist Ugonna Okewgo, oudist Amos Hoffman, percussionists Natalie Cushman and Gilad, renaming it Sam Newsome & Global Unity—music he termed as cross-cultural jazz. The group drew influences from late '60s Coltrane, North Africa, Japan, and the Middle East. During this period he also worked regularly in the bands of drummer/percussionist Leon Parker and bassist Avishai Cohen—both of whom were also exploring this new musical direction. The group's debut CD was released on Columbia/Sony in 1999.
In 2005, Newsome began exploring the solo saxophone format. After a seven-year commitment to honing his band sound with Global Unity, Newsome decided to take a hiatus from performing as a leader to develop a musical concept that was more specific to the soprano saxophone. Moreover, being frustrated with trying to keep a working band together, and realizing that the essence of his musical concept with Global Unity was about sound and texture, made exploring the solo saxophone format even more attractive. This led to years of Newsome diligently studying the solo works of Steve Lacy, Evan Parker, Sonny Rollins, and Anthony Braxton, where he learned how to approach solo saxophone as a concept, and not just sound like one person minus a band.
In 2007, released Monk Abstractions, on which he recorded the compositions of Thelonious Monk. Mark Corroto from All About Jazz wrote: “Newsome expands the sound of a single soprano saxophone into a one man band.” All About Jazz - New York named it one of the top tribute CDs of the year.
In 2010, Newsome released his second solo saxophone CD, Blue Soliloquy—this time with the blues being at the music's core. Jazz critic Howard Mandel wrote, "Sam Newsome's Blue Soliloquy is music of significant yet subtle accomplishment." This CD was also given the distinguished five star (masterpiece) rating by Downbeat Magazine.
In 2011, the Jazz Journalists Association named Newsome as one of finalists for "Soprano Saxophonists of the Year." Other nominees included Dave Liebman, Jane Ira Bloom, Jane Burnett, Wayne Shorter,and Evan Parker.
Newsome is married to jazz violinist Meg Okura. They were married on September 18, 2004 by Newsome's older brother Reverend Timothy Johnson.
A big fan a stand-up comedy, Newsome often attended "open-mic night" at many new venues in the early nineties to practice some of his own stand-up routine. Some of the comedians who often attended those same sessions were Dave Atell, Adam Carolla, and Reggie McFadden.
As a leader
- Sam I Am with Billy Drummond, James Genus, Mulgrew Miller, Steve Nelson (vibraphonist), 1990
- Sam Newsome & Global Unity, Elisabeth Kontomanou, Amos Hoffman, Ugonna Okegwo, Gilad, Leon Parker, Natalie Cushman, Carlos Gomez, 1997
- The Tenderside of Sammy Straighthorn, Elisabeth Kontomanou, Bruce Barth, Ugonna Okegwo, Matt Wilson, 2000
- This Masquerade with Bruce Barth, Gene Jackson, Ugonna Okegwo, 2000
- Global Unity with Elisabeth Kontomanou, Meg Okura, Ugonna Okegwo, Matt Balitsaris, Jeff Berman, Adam Cruz, Gilad, Kahlil Kwame Bell, 2001
- Sam Newsome's Groove Project 24/7 with Jerome Harris, Greg Lewis, Derrick Phillips, 2002
- Monk Abstractions, solo, 2007
- Sam Newsome & Lucian Ban, The Romanian-American Jazz Suite with Alex Harding, Sorin Romanescu, Arthur Barlough, and Willard Dyson, 2008
- Blue Soliloquy, solo, 2009
As a sideperson
With Bruce Barth
- East & West, 2000
- Where Eagles Fly, 2000
With Terence Blanchard
- Terence Blanchard, 1991
- Simply Stated, 1993
- The Malcolm X Jazz Suite, 1994
- Sugarhill, Original Soundcheck, 1995
With David Berkman
- Communication Theory, 2000
- Leaving Home, 2002
With Orrin Evans
- Grown Folk Bizness, 1999
- Listen to the Band, 2000
- Meant to Shine, 2002
- The Band, Live at Widener University, 2005
With Elisabeth Kontomanou
- Embrace, 2001
- Waiting to Exhale, 2004
- Black Angel, 2007
With Leon Parker
- Awakening, 1998
- The Simple Life, 2000
With Various Artists
- (Russell Gunn) Young Gunn, 1994
- (Sugarhill) Original Soundcheck, 1994
- (Donald Brown) Wurd on the Street, 1996
- (Paul Swartz and Mario Grigorov),Aria, 1997
- (Pablo Bobrowicky), South of the Border, 1997
- (Lisa Michel), When Summer Comes, 1999
- (Various Artists),32 More Gems From 32 Jazz, 2000
- (Rene Marie) I Can’t Stop Singing, 2001
- (Various Artists), Palmetto Records, 2001
- (Various Artists) SteepleChase Jam Session, Vol. 4, 2002
- (Various Artists) Celebrating 20 Years of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal: 1980-2000, 2002
- (Jean Michel Pilc) Cardinal Points, 2003
- (Shoko Nagai) Vortex, 2003
- (Ugonna Okegwo) UONIVERSE, 2004
- (Cafe del Mar) Aria, 2004
- (Various Artists) Time Works For Dreamers, 2004
- (Various Artists) Imani Records Sampler, 2005
- (DD Jackson) Serenity Song, 2006
- (Scott Neumann and Osage County) Scott Neumann and Osage County, 2006
- (Richard Thompson/Mirage) Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, 2008
- Yanow, Scott. "Terence Blanchard: Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
- Yanow, Scott. "The Malcolm X Jazz Suite: Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
- Corroto, Mark (19 August 2007). "Sam Newsome & Plays Monk: Defenders Of The Thelonious Flame". All About Jazz. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
- Holmes, Terrell Kent (10 May 2010). "Blue Soliloquy". All About Jazz. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
- Lara Pellegrinelli, "Sam Newsome". New Grove Dictionary of Jazz online.