We are excited to be featuring an in-person, socially distant event for the first time since March! Arts For Arts, an NYC organization that is dedicated to the promotion and advancement of Free Jazz is hosting Artist for a Free World Protest Concert Series September 12th at The Clemente, La Plaza and September 26th in St. Marks Churchyard.
The headliner for this Saturday’s event is Sam Newsome Trio. Newsome is a soprano saxophonist, jazz improviser, solo performer, sound enthusiast, and music professor at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus. Solo soprano sax has not been explored as thoroughly as other saxophones, allowing Newsome to pave the way with his creativity and sonic explorations. Newsome has a broad palette of sounds with experimental techniques such as prepared and modified saxophones. Newsome’s most recent 2020 releases, Sonic Journey: Live at the Red Room, and Free Wyoming (Sam Newsome Trio: Live at the Metro Coffee Co.) capture their live free-form abstract compositions.
This Saturday (9/12) you can catch Sam Newsome joined by Hilliard Greene on bass and Reggie Nicholson on drums live at The Clemente in La Plaza, 114 Norfolk Street. The Larry Roland Trio and Dickey Spell will also be performing at 3 and 4pm respectively. The event is sold out on preregistration, but they will accommodate walk-ups as capacity allows (approx 30 people). It will also be live streamed via Facebook and YouTube. We chatted with Sam Newsome about his favorite visual artists, musical routine and why jazz students should be awarded for getting it wrong.
AF: What led you to jazz and the soprano sax?
SN: I was attracted to the artistic freedom that jazz afforded me. Society often teaches us to be cogs in a wheel, to follow the rules, and to be good soldiers. Jazz challenges these expectations. Jazz musicians are encouraged to shake up the status quo, or sometimes simply move around it. As far as the soprano… because it’s the least explored of all the saxophones, I saw it as a blank creative canvas that allowed me be under-influenced by the music’s history.
AF: What are some ways you prepare and modify your sax?
SN: I have an expansive set of preparations that I utilize, that’s constantly growing—for better or worst. The ones most commonly used are my plastic tube extensions, my hanging wind chimes, the tin foil that I attached to the horn’s bell, the balloons stuffed with bells that I attach to my fingers, the noise makers that I place inside of my instrument, and lately, I’ve been experimenting with attaching a dishwasher drain hose to the neck of the instrument. It’s a pretty wild sound. My creative process is guided by the simple idea of altering the way that air enters and exits my instrument.
AF: Are you inspired by any non-musical mediums?
SN: Absolutely. Picasso, Pollack, Yayoi Kusama, and nature are huge sources of inspiration. Simply put, I’m inspired by things of beauty.
AF: Has the quarantine affected your musical routine?
SN: Most definitely. I did not practice as much in the conventional sense. With few opportunities to play, it’s pretty understandable. Actually, I spent more time outside enjoying nature: hiking, camping, bike riding, ziplining, all the fun stuff I normally don’t make time for. But now I’m getting back to practicing in a more rigorous way. It feels good after so many months of laying off.
AF: What have been some of your favorite records to listen to over the past few months?
SN: Oddly enough, I don’t listen to a lot of music. I do listen to things every day, but only in small doses. Just hearing a few bars sets off my creative juices like a flowing river, then I’ll to have to turn it off so that I can deal with my creative thoughts. It’s one of the curses of being an artist. My wife, Meg Okura, is prolific composer. I’d say I probably listen to her music more than anyone else’s, just from being in such close proximity.
AF: You’ve taught jazz for many years. Do you feel there’s an approach to teaching that achieves more innovative and creative playing?
SN: For sure. Innovation and creativity only flourishes when students take chances and fail. However, they won’t go out on a limb if they’re punished for it. If we started awarding students for getting it wrong instead of only patting them on the backs when they get it right, we’d see a significant change in students’ creative output. When need to start giving A’s for fucking up. Make wrong the new right.
AF: What has been your favorite live performance experience and why?
SN: They’ve all been special in their own way. Any time I’m able to simultaneously connect with my instrument, have synergy with other players, and play for an appreciative audience, it’s nothing short of magical. It’s an enlightened state that can’t be judged, only experienced.
AF: Have you done many socially distant shows?
SN: Quite a few. I just returned from playing the 2020 Detroit Jazz Festival with a Afro Horn, a high- energy Afro Cuban-influenced jazz ensemble I’ve been working with for several years. They flew us from New York to Detroit, and we played on a big stage for no live audience, just tech and camera crew. All of the performances were streamed via their website and YouTube. It was very bizarre, to say the least. However, it was a sign of progress. This would have been unthinkable back in April.
AF: How did you get involved in the Artists for a Free World Protest Concert series and what can we expect from the performance?
SN: I’ve been involved with them for at least five or six years. I admire the work that they do. We need more people like them out here trying to make a difference. On Saturday, I’ll be performing with my trio with Hilliard Greene on bass and Reggie Nicholson on drums. And we’ll do what we do, which is take ourselves and the audience on a sonic journey. Hopefully, we’ll all come out on the other side in a better place.
AF: What are your plans for the rest of 2020 and beyond?
SN: My plans moving forward are simple. Enjoy life, stay safe, and create.
RSVP HERE for Sam Newsome trio, Dickey/Swell, and Larry Roland Trio at The Clemente, La Plaza 3pm ET on 9/12.
More Great Shows This Week…
9/11 Armenias in Film: The Stateless Diplomat. RSVP HERE
9/11 – 9/13 Punk n Roll RendezVous Online Festival via The Unicorn Camden Live. 2pm EDT, RSVP HERE
9/13 Improvised Tarot Readings: A Hilarious Evening via Zoom. 8pm EDT RSVP HERE