Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy



Video Feature: Afro-Horn - Arts for Art - January 19 2017

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Low Hanging Fruit or High Hanging Fruit: How Do You Feed Your Creativity?




A few months back, I did an interview piece for the New York City Jazz Record. Throughout the interview, I touched on many topics, but one point I remember making was this: Those of us looking to carve out a niche for ourselves need to be willing to do the work that others are not. We need the courage to walk down that musical back alley that would scare most away. And must be willing to surround ourselves with the musical company of like-minded thinkers, no matter how popular or unpopular they may be.

In my case, I was referring to my willingness to be committed only to the soprano as well as being open to drawing influences from those not a part of the typical jazz canon. I call this philosophy picking from the high hanging fruits. In other words, experimenting with ideas and studying players that are considered atypical. And low hanging fruits are ideas and players that are more commonplace.

Most contemporary jazz musicians were raised on the low hanging fruits from the jazz tree of knowledge. Usually, these are players introduced to them by their private teachers, high school band directors, and college music professors. And I'm speaking of the usual suspects who have come to define jazz history: Louis Armstrong, Bird, Dizzy, Miles, Coltrane, Rollins, Herbie--and the list goes on and on.

Let me stress that there is nothing wrong with studying these players. It would be foolish not to. My issue is that students around the globe often end up studying the same 10 players on their respective instruments. Again, this is great when students are at the stage of just taking it all in. But when these same players remain their paths of study for the entirety of their careers, typically what grows artistically lacks originality. Only nurturing our creative aspirations on the low hanging fruits can potentially prevent us from finding a musical voice that it uniquely our own. This is especially true in this stage information accessibility. And let me be clear: I do realize that this way of viewing things is somewhat shortsighted. Whom we study is just half the battle. What we do with the information is what counts.  

Having said that, I am convinced that growing your musical concept on the nutrients of the low hanging fruits is certainly the safer of the two. Who's going to criticize you if your concept is a cleverly crafted blend of Coltrane, Rollins, Bird, and Chris Potter? From these players, you'll get the vocabulary to navigate your way through most musical settings. And because most will already be familiar with this ideas, they're unlikely to criticize your efforts, unless they're done badly.

Challenging the status quo is a lot more risky, not to mention that you become more susceptible to critique, even if you are excellent. No one ever questioned Cecil Taylor's ability to play the piano or execute his ideas. What they often viewed with an air of suspicion, were his ideas--his aesthetical judgment, if you will.

This is the double-edged sword of growing your musical concept on the high hanging fruits. It's a harder path. And it's a path that can leave you with little company. One might be inclined to ask "Why to bother?" And for me, the only answer have is "Because I have no choice."

I hope that one day I can arrive at the covenant status of high hanging fruit. That which is mostly consumed by connoisseurs of unconventionality and experimentation. At the end of the day, I may not feed many, but at least I know that I will at least feed the hungry.

Anyway, check out my new CD, Sopranoville: New Works for Prepared and Non-Prepared Saxophone. Let me know what you think. Send me your address, and I'll even mail you a copy.

Warm regards,


Sam Newsome

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Review of Sopranoville by Avant Music News (AMN)

The following review was written by Avant Music News (AMN) on March 19, 2017. The reviewer is only known as Mike.


 “Not being terribly familiar with the works of Sam Newsome, I had (for some reason) assumed that he was focused on straight jazz. To my distinct pleasure, I was proven wrong by Sopranoville, his new experimental saxophone release.

Subtitled “New Works for Prepared and Non-Prepared Saxophone,” the album consists of 22 short tracks all produced, in one way or another, by soprano sax. This involves not only overdubbing, but manipulating the sounds coming out of the instrument with tape, aluminum foil, reed-straw, and so on. Through the use of extended techniques, Newsome offers drones, squeaks, and percussive elements. Clearly, the focus is on experimentation – seeing how far the sonic envelope of the soprano can be pushed. To that end, Newsome not only elicits unconventional output from his instrument, but also crafts clever multi-track compositions in the studio – in some cases, up to fifteen sopranos are layered upon one another with an avant-orchestral flavor. That’s not to say that all of these pieces are abstract. On some, Newsome sets forth catchy, yet discordant, themes. But the focus here is new music.

As solo sax recordings go, I remain a big fan of the Anthony Braxton / John Butcher styles and approaches. However, in view of Sopranoville, I’ll be adding Newsome to the list of individuals whose future output is of interest.”

To read the original, CLICK HERE:

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Review of new CD by Otto Kokke in www. BurningAmbulance.com

Sopranoville: New Works for Prepared and Non-Prepared Saxophone by Otto Kokke
I used the word soprano close to 20 times in this review and it’s not enough. There’s just one word needed to describe this album. Yeah, it’s aptly titled.
Legendary soprano saxophone player Steve Lacy once said, “The potential for the saxophone is unlimited.” Well, Sam Newsome took that to heart. Now, Sam would be what I call a Respectable American Jazz Musician. You know, the teaching position, CDs of Monk tunes, big festivals, etc. Being a soprano player myself, though far from respectable, not American and probably not even jazz, I’m usually kind of wary of records that come from this corner of the music industry. Most times, the only surprise I find there is how much it makes me yawn. So that’s kind of what I expected from someone like Sam.
But boy, was I wrong. Sam took Lacy’s statement, applied it to soprano and hit it out of the park. This is very much not a Respectable American Jazz album. This is a soprano saxophone album. Aside from some knick-knacks from the free jazz repository of “things that make percussive sounds,” it is soprano only. And on this album Sam takes his soprano off its leash and lets it go wherever it feels like going. And it goes everywhereThis album is nuts! It’s beyond eclectic, it’s all over the place. He makes every sound you can get from a soprano. He does it all. Everything. Without any sense of fixed direction or style. Corny, jazzy, cheesy, Disney, weird, ethnic, mellow, screeching, popping, irritating, overwhelming. Anything he was able to wrench out of his soprano, he did it. It’s bizarre. People will hate it. I love it.
Most of the 22 short songs are semi- or minimal compositions with a lot of room for improvisation and a lot of overdubbing action. If all you have is a soprano and you love it, you’d overdub the hell out of it too. In that sense, “Micro-Suite for Fifteen Sopranos” may be the magnum opus of the album.
To give an impression of the range of Sam’s ideas on Sopranoville, the album starts off with the aptly titled “The Quiet Before the Storm,” a song with some cheesy chimes and mellow, wistful soprano melodies. It is followed by a classical composition for soprano, some abstract compositions and explorations of extended techniques for soprano, some gimmicky percussive pieces using only the sound of closing keys on the soprano. There’s experimentation with “prepared soprano” techniques consisting of modifying the horn with paper, straws, tinfoil, and even hanging wind chimes off his horn. Most songs are a simple exploration of one basic idea, which makes the album quite easy to process despite the wide range of ideas and lack of coherence between them. But it’s all soprano, and that ties everything together. A cult classic, for the soprano cult.

PRE-ORDER NOW

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Midwest Records review of Sopranoville: News Works for Prepared and Non-Prepared Saxophone


Review by Midwest Records on March 4, 2017

SAM NEWSOME/Sopranoville-New Works for Prepared and Non-Prepared Saxophone: Compelling in the same way that Mort Weiss' late period, totally solo works are, Newsome expands his palette a little more than Weiss and he's doing more risk-taking and exploring of outer edges. Bordering on being Sunday afternoon arts council fare, Newsome imbues it with that something extra, as well as some civil rights jazz vibes, that keeps the sounds hipster populist rather than egghead elitist. A nice look at the outer edges from a cat with the chops to pull it off. 



To pre-order CD, CLICK HERE





Monday, February 6, 2017

In Search of a New Soprano: Me and the Yanagisawa S901 (Unlacquered One-Piece)

During the past couple of weeks, I've done a few gigs on the Yanagisawa S901 (the unlacquered one-piece), thanks to the generosity of saxophonist Alonzo Wright. It's the first time I've played an unlacquered horn in my life. Which is ironic, because while playing my silver YSS 62, I felt the silver got in the way of me opening up the sound. It was only after playing it twenty years, and the silver becoming tarnished, that I was able to produce a more organic sound.

I actually like it when the sound of my instrument is not built in. It can be difficult to differentiate between the pure quality of an instrument's metal and the sonic tampering heard with over-lacquering. I find this especially true with silver lacquered horns.



The latter is a little bit like having sonic training wheels. But training wheels are only useful when you don't know what you're doing. However, when you learn how to really ride your bike, metaphorically speaking, then the training wheels become more of an obstacle than an aid.

Now, having said that, I do find that the sound of this unlacquered horn to be non-specific: meaning that the instrument doesn't do the work for you. It's comparable to eating plain yogurt versus eating the kind that comes sweetened with bananas and strawberries. Which is fine by me. I'd like to think that I can provide my own charisma, my own sweetness if you will. I don't need a pre-fixed sonic template.

And I can certainly understand why saxophonists who don't play the soprano on a regular basis would choose not to play one that is unlacquered. I've found that you have to work much harder to get a sound that's unique or special in some way. This is something that many don't have the patience for--sometimes I don't have it myself.

Just over the last week, I put this horn to the challenge on three gigs. The first was a synagig (this a linguistic blend of synagogue and gig) at the Temple Israel New York for their annual Martin Luther King Shabbat service, for which my wife arranged all the tunes beautifully. The second was at the Downtown Music Gallery for a double-bill solo concert I shared with saxophonist Mikko Innanen. And the third was at the Art for Art series with Francisco Mora Catlett and AfroHorn. These were three very different gigs, which was great because it gave me an opportunity to explore the instrument's range.

The first concert, the tribute to MLK, allowed me to explore its sensitive side. As many are aware, the soprano has no problems being loud and blaring. However, playing it softly and in tune is a much bigger challenge. The instrumentation was for soprano, violin, voice, acoustic guitar, bass, and percussion. So I could not come out of my Coltrane "Live at Birdland" bag. I'm happy to say that I was successfully able to blend in and do my thing without distracting from what the other players were doing--which is not always the case. In fact, playing in tune and softly was even very difficult on my YSS 62--especially as the instrument became more worn.

During my second concert, my solo show at DMG, I got a chance to hear how well it responds to extended techniques, which can be kind of tricky--particularly the multi-phonics. It took me a few tunes to find my sound, but when I did, I was able to get into a comfortable creative zone.

The third performance at Art for Art was more typical as far as the kinds of gigs I do--meaning that it was experimental and volume heavy. I found that the instrument didn't have the muscularity of other horns I've played, but it seemed to have a broad dynamic range that allowed me to push its volume level without the instrument giving in. It's hard finding a soprano that allows you to play pianissimo to forte while staying pretty much in tune. Being comfortable with extremes is one of the challenges of playing the soprano. Having the flexibility of going from loud to soft; high to low; and sensitive to aggressive can be very difficult to achieve. And being improvising artists, not being able to touch on any of these areas during the inspired moments of a concert can make one feel creatively restive.

However,  as I've said in earlier writings about this issue, finding a good horn is not like finding a good reed. You're not going to pull one out of the case and find a halo around the bell. The performer/instrument relationship sometimes needs to be nurtured over time before you figure each other out.

But the search continues.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

An Interview with Soprano Saxophonist Jamison Williams

If I told you in conversation that I knew of a free jazz soprano player who loved to the push the limits using his extensive vocabulary of note bends, squawks, flutter tonguing, multiphonics and any other sonic permutation that's inspiring him at the moment. you might say, "So what. They all do." But then what if I told you that this free-wheeling avant-gardist had an unusual fascination with deconstructing the Disney songbook. Then you might understand why Jamison Williams is not your run-in-the-mill experimentalist. Not even Lacy himself has taken on repertoire as mainstream as "Spoonful of Sugar" from Mary  Poppins and "Tinkerbell."

Soprano saxophonist Jamison Williams, who hails from the Jacksonville, Florida area, is on a steadfast mission of building new audiences through various educational initiatives, adventurous music programming, and, of course, the old fashion way of getting on stage with his instrument and winning over fans, one by one.

Please check out this fascinating interview where he discusses what it's like to play the soprano saxophone exclusively (not to mentioned the story of how he ended up with only a soprano), how he became fascinated with the Disney songbook, and insight into the thriving improvised music scene in the Sunshine State. 


Sam Newsome: You're probably one of a handful of people in the country who self-identifies as a soprano saxophonist and an improviser. Some would say you have created two musical hurdles, others that you have created two paths to freedom. How do you see it?

Jamison Williams: As an improviser, I always thought that it was our responsibility to dictate in real time, systemic stories and compositions, representative of the specific life that we decoratively create as “personal entertainment” for those who have come to listen to our brand of storytelling; the soprano saxophone is, for my story device/medium, a stylistic tool enables an ideal development for a full representation of my graphic musical dictation. It’s a very difficult instrument, those who choose to create solely based on this one instrument, non-doublers, often times find it to be limiting, lacking a lower fundamental and stuffy/nasally extended ranges. It’s very finicky, too, and tends to not compromise to the performer, but if you do find its sweet spot, treat it with the absolute respect of a polished beauty, as well as putting in your 10,000 hours of consistent practice, you will find that you ultimately don’t need any other instruments to help coexist in the portraits you’re designing. I can’t speak for everyone, but it is a perfect tool for me in accessing the colors needed to paint a fully mapped out landscape of sound images.

Ultimately, whichever tool do you use, regardless of whether or not it’s a saxophone, “it” being the soprano or any other instrument in the saxophone family, it will guide you to a path of creative freedom, that is why the tool was created; whether or not it’s an impossible hurdle or a priceless asset, would depend on how comfortable it is for the narrator to define their ideas through that tool. Those possibilities can only be narrowed down based on how unequivocally you were able to better understand who you are, tap into the truth, and characterize the choice descriptives that are available to your personal disposal, allowing and optimally emphasizing the details of the story you’re publically presenting. The story will always be stifled and burdened with doubt, if what is being said carries the weight of insecurities, musically or otherwise.

SN: What inspired you to take up the soprano saxophone as your main axe? Because I know that you played the alto for a while. Correct?

JW: Throughout the 2012-13 curatorial season of the Experimental Arts Union of Florida, it was my responsibility to schedule [and fund] as many of the world’s most important improvisers in avant jazz, as well as educators and experimental artists, hosting the most valuable creators in our field; as an inaugural event opening the series and program, it was decided the most ideal performers for our flagship event, would be to provide the city with an opportunity to experience two of the greatest instrumentalists this genre had to offer, Peter Brotzmann and Joe McPhee; the amount of inspiration these two players have gifted to me is absolutely immeasurable, so I believed that it was important for others to experience that same type of exuberance, emotionally. Although we covered a great portion of the amount through collections and fundraising, we were just shy of the performer’s guarantee amount, so to supplement the needed amount I reluctantly hocked my ’47 Conn 6M, proving to be a very bad decision, because unfortunately the rest of the city didn’t share in my appreciation for these exceptional artists.

 There was a lower turnout than I was expecting, which meant that the attendance wasn’t strong enough to yield the amount needed to recover my horn. Life is full of unforeseen circumstances: 15 years on the same horn, developing a language and “sketchbooking”, and in the end, losing it to fund those who have inspired you, and to inspire others. My only backup was a '27 Conn New Wonder II, a horn that was physically in shambles, and ridiculously uncontrollable. The 5,000 hours of private practice, and full personal overhaul, were mandatory prerequisites before I decided to play one note publicly. It ultimately proved to be my true voice, a beautiful sound, radiant and truthful, and a blessing in disguise. I’ll never play another saxophone for the rest of my life; it’s my sniper rifle, and calligrapher’s pen. The guarantee was the standard rate for a personal lesson from the Masters.


SN: There seems to be a scene in Jacksonville for young improvisers and experimentalists. Who are some of your collaborators and where do you play?

JW: Florida has nurtured a very interesting brand of improvisation and experimentation, due to the growth of the “noise scene” by Frank Falestra from south Florida, Timucua White House by Benoit Glaser and the Civic-Minded 5 in Orlando, as well as our involvement through the Experimental Arts Union and the [neu ]Sonics music initiative at Karpeles Museum [Jacksonville]; through electronics, circuit-bent sound engineering, and electro-acoustic performances, the music scene has cultivated a wonderful open collaborative landscape inviting artists from every facet of the experimental genre, we are very inclusive and supportive of those presenting performances. This has always been a community that would allow novices of musical creative expression to further develop into masters of their craft by designing and developing a personal language very much unique to their specific artistic interests.

I love Florida, it’s a magnificent state, and the collaborators associated with the state are priceless elements to my personal development. I find that many who have supported the scene are now either co-instructors with [neu]Sonics, or students directly involved in the program. It has become a haven for new development, a safe place for ideas, and a realm of dedicated, experimental music practitioners.

SN: Is it naive to think that one can make a decent living in today's musical climate? Because there are some who believe and have proven that where there is will, there is a way.

JW: My father raised me believing that ultimately the only way to make a decent living in life is to establish yourself with full knowledge in one of five basic occupational fields: doctor, lawyer, teacher, accountant, or military. Education was my field of study, and will be for the rest of my life, as to whether or not that field of study could provide sustainable income needed to maintain a standard of living is questionable, but ultimately having an awareness of your personal expectations, and not trying to compare your success to anyone else, creates a bar that only you know what you’re success rate quantifies. Does it mean we have to diversify our artistic interests to help keep us from sinking? Do we have to take in students, as well as wedding gigs? No. What’s most important is to recognize that the stronger bonds you have created with fellow musicians, the strongest of familial bonds, are the most priceless of our possessions. We live in the musical environment where many of us are aware that everyone else is working tirelessly, and would be catastrophic to see any friend suffer, as we are all relative and the ripple carries past the horizon. So it returns back to the question, what is a “decent living”? In my eyes, a “decent life” is friendship, family, and the bonds created therein: the stronger the bonds, the more decent life created. This musical climate, and strength found in our community has enabled that environment.

SN: There are two organizations you are involved in: the [neu]Sonics Music Initiative and the Experimental Arts Union of Florida. Tell me a little about how they came about.

JW: The Experimental Arts Union of Florida was originally designed as an educational program, presenting internationally, critically acclaimed experimental improvisational artists; it gave our community an opportunity to experience world-class musicians, first-hand, in an environment where the impact of their performance could leave an outstanding scar of inspiration. These were intimate performances, close and personal, as many performances were so close to the listeners, we could almost hear the performers crafting out ideas in real time. It was a beautiful experience in local history, and an educational environment unlike any in this city’s history, and one I would value as a lifelong inspiration. The Experimental Arts Union of Florida eventually became the [neu]Sonics Music Initiative (www.neusonics.org), a six-part, tri-annual, music program focusing on structural improvisation and the tools needed to create graphic notated scores and “soundpaint”; it is always referred to in public as, essentially, an “alternative music education program”. Co-instructors and guest performers are an integral part of the lesson plan, as students are able to perform with the world-class musicians, rather than passively learning through their presentations and performances. Many of the students have never even touched an instrument before entering this program, now they’re developing graphic scores and verbalizing constructive musical ideas specifically developed for veteran improvising musicians. It’s an environment where the ‘student is teaching the teacher, as the teacher teaches the student’; the system is very symbiotic. Everyone is learning, and teaching, regardless of existing musical experience.

SN: For someone who creates music that's on the fringes, you seem to be successful at performing throughout the United States and Europe. How are you able to successfully pull this sort of thing off?

JW: The environment in which we create this type of specialized music interest isn’t as large as we’d like to believe it is, and everyone is just a stone’s throw from everyone else, creating the same form of relative art, basking in the prismatic degree of that same spectrum, so we know who is involved and who inspires; when you thumb through the Penguin Guide to Jazz you recognize personnel, musicians who have collaborated with other musicians, and there’s an obsessive nature in wanting to cross reference specific players, and their roles in ensembles, and associations with band leaders; just as Ellington assigned specific musicians based on the personality of their sound, if you have developed particular voice that is of interest, people want to engage themselves in your dialogue, especially if the obtainable nature of the interaction is relatively frequent. It’s almost like nerding out over the stats of a benched baseball player, or a rarely seen actor who makes cameos in a film. We’re not pop stars, but we will be taken as serious has anyone on a list of historic performances by our peers, which makes it more personably valuable on a magical and intimate level. If relating to others on a personal level, and allowing them to speak freely in a musical dialogue with me, is success, then I am the happiest of millionaires. It’s important to recognize how absolutely little we are on this planet, and how many people there are on it for such a short time, because as soon as you start to develop a massive ego and you start comparing yourself, and belittling others, the more separate you are from the environment who helped create you. I’m on the fringes because I’m a part of that “fringe” community of ideas, it’s where I often find solace and a very comfortable performance atmosphere. It’s my home, and I am welcomed there; it’s where my family is, and it’s where my education process began.

SN: I have a few questions about playing solo, an area that is of particular interest to me. This question is in three parts. First, what inspired you explore this format so deeply? For many, it's just a novelty. Secondly, do you find that your thought process is different from playing with an ensemble? And third, do you prepare for a solo concert differently?

JW: A soliloquy is such an intense way to dictate a personal expression directly to an audience, it’s just you, and the people focused on listening to what it is that you’re presenting: no filter and no fluff, and only the thinnest of safety nets; if you fail, you fall hard, and everyone there can bear witness to you floundering. It’s a great experience, because if you happen to nose-dive a performance, that in itself could be a part of the performance, as you dig yourself out to a successful conclusion. You’re there alone, as everyone is watching you sculpt a story from absolutely nothing; your voice is all you have, and the buzzer can sound at any moment, as the Sandman’s waiting to wipe you off that stage. It takes a lot of guts to stand there alone, and either an extremely confident musician can manage that role or a musician who has absolutely nothing to lose. It’s important for me to realize that the sincerity of performances typically weeds out the facsimiles from the archetypes; honesty is my only weapon, coupled with 10 years of tireless dedication to saxophonic ingenuity. Focusing on the importance of a direct monologue, seamlessly gifted to the audience from you, the performer, through a metal tube, without any added effects, that always seemed heroic, wise, and the task of an experienced lecturer. A solo performance is as close to the source as you can get.

On the other hand, many of the performances that I conduct [with large ensembles] usually involve very little rehearsal time, so what happens when you bring together 20+ musicians who have never been given the opportunity to discuss the material together, the end result usually equates to mass confusion and a dense wall of sound, and that is what I typically expect; so what I do, as a band leader with ensembles that are that large, is generally create a golden thread throughout all this turbulent confusion by creating a thematic line of recognizable material. In the past, many musicians that participate in these type of improvised conducted ensembles know that there will be elements of control, even though they may not know where the controlled element is going to lead them. Creatively, by trade, I thoroughly enjoy structured improvisation, through graphic notated work or improvise conduction, just so that the audience and the participating personnel knows that it’s leading to a closure and that there is a purpose to the performance. I don’t want to leave anyone into the dark; I’m the director of a creative circumstance that the audience is participating in, they are not separated from us, instead they are the reason we are presenting the work, as entertainment, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that their criticisms reflect the result; so the large ensemble creates a foundation, a very turbulent explosive foundation, that allows me to delicately provide a point of understanding throughout this tornado of musical drama. In these performances, the soprano is used with circular breathing long tones, upper register, and my solos are extremely short as transitional elements leading to collaborative heads, created by interpersonal groupings and instant directed arrangements. The soprano is a baton, as the ensemble is a thunderstorm of killer bees.



Constructing solo sets is essentially bleeding into the well. For the past 5 years, I’ve been religiously studying the works from the classic Disney songbook, that’s what I focus on when I’m focusing all my creative energy on improvising material; studying recognizable songs of our historic musical past. The songbook has been panned over thoroughly as I try to further delve deeper into this very rich and beautiful musical history. So if I am preparing anything for a solo set, it’s no different than any other day, in which I get up and obsess over my core musical values; the nonidiomatic musical style that I had developed and learned through my collegiate experience and private lessons, and into college, derived from the opportunity to study extensive nontraditional sounds and techniques. The extended words and phrases I learned, words that have been exploited by many others in this field, ones which, today, don’t necessarily reflect on the ideas and opinions that I personally carry as an adult. They did when I was trying to develop a unique identity on this instrument [overblowing, biting reeds, unverbalized runs], but to hear many other people regurgitate those same carbon copied statements, ideas stolen directly from some of the world’s greatest masters, reduces the truth they are presenting, vilifying and parodying pricelessness of an original idea by a second generation narrator. My responsibility is to get closer to my musical source, and that is thinking critically about every step I take in finalizing what the story is going to spell, the studied Disney material will leak out of from my primary vernacular, and interject itself throughout my matured monologue. I prepare simply by further investigating the truth behind who I am, versus who I thought I was, and who my teachers and parents wanted me to be. There was a time when I used to practice extended techniques, eight hours a day, every day, for years, now I simply practice Disney songs; I want to learn every single note, deconstruct them all, and graft them on to everything I have become.


SN: With your interpretations of the Disney songbook,  it sounds like you’re trying to deconstructive the most mainstream aspect of American culture. Or you do you simply just like the melodies? After all, Coltrane did record “My Favorite Things,” from The Sound of Music. So that sort of thing is not totally unusual.

JW: When I was a kid my parents used to buy me records every week, 45’s, Picture Discs, Read Alongs, etc, as an allowance for good behavior, grades, and treats; my dad was in the military and would purchase these from the commissary, five, six, or whatever was new on the store shelf; as the pile at home got larger, the disc clutter was managed by storing away the older ones, as new ones we bought. What I didn’t realize was, after over a decade of this, there were hundreds upon hundreds of records stored away up in an attic. Five years ago, I wound up finding these, literally about a 1,000 Disney records up in my parent’s attic space, and it blew my mind. I had an absolute epiphany; it was a beautiful experience, and it took all the previous musical knowledge that I had developed and flipped it on its ass. It made me reevaluate everything that I was musically saying up to that point, and forced me to reflect on my personal history, musically, and challenged myself in a way that was incredibly realistic, truthful and had a defined confrontation point on who I was. There was a message in the story, and honesty was written in my musical vernacular. It wasn’t simply the process of moving forward in a linear pattern, instead, it was a process of catharticism, and developing backwards; I guess it would be called ‘constructive nostalgia’. All these elements that belong to my past could now be reintroduced into a viable story of personal self-interest. These records are in my vision daily, and from the moment I found them they’ve been a part of my fundamental study material. It was a landfill of history, valuable memories stored away; until one day they were all taken away, and focus was put on academia and sports. Buying records for the child, turned into buying a car for the teenager, and music was not a priority; high school graduation and college became the forefront of the familial ideal. It was a very immediate and callous transition, furiously fast. Finding this enormous archive and studying all the information is my way of preserving a history that was stripped from me too abruptly. Presently, and for the past half-decade, it had been my absolute passion, and as obsessive natured as I am, it will ultimately be my study material until I’ve exhausted this creative need.

SN: That's pretty fascinating. Few people with your experimental aesthetic have such a passion for this kind of repertoire. Now tell me about your latest project?

JW: Currently, I’m in the process of compiling and editing Volume II of ‘Interpretations from the Disney Songbook (for solo soprano saxophone), over 550 pages of hybrid notated [graphic/traditional notated] compositions, a massive tome of interpreted manuscripts. Earlier this month, I released ‘Interpretations from the Disney Songbook (for solo soprano saxophone)’, Volume I; over 400 pages of graphic notated compositions, the first in a series of five, totaling out with nearly 2,000 compositions, written back in June of this year. Each composition comes complete with directives, compositional movements, and narratives on specific temperaments associated with the piece. Everything is fully explained, in detail. This is a project that consumed me, all my time, life and focus, and practically everything else, besides touring, was put on hold. Days would turn into night, and back again, as I kept pushing out comp after comp; even now, there are times when I will wake up from sleep, and write one out, 15-20 mins later back to sleep. Staffs are waiting around the house, just waiting for me to pencil one in. That is my “speaking in tongues”. This project is a monolith of tireless efforts, one painstakingly crafted: the deliberate words of absolute creative obsession. I feel they are my truest representation of purity and creative honesty: a soliloquy of passion and determination, and a valuable resource providing insight into the functional process of personal exploration and recovery. 

SN: Well, it sounds like an intriguing piece of work. I can’t wait to hear it. 

But before we conclude, I’d like to ask about your set-up. Inquiring sax-geeks would like to know.

SN: Reed brand and size?

JW: Vandoren (traditional), 3

SN:  Mouthpiece brand and size?

JW: Otto Link, 'Super Tone Master' (Florida), 6

SN: Instrument brand and model?

JW: Conn 18M, Soprano ('New Wonder II', 193xxx), unlacquered

SN: Thanks for your time, Jamison.  I really appreciate it.


CLICK HERE, to find out more about Jamison Williams and music.






Friday, January 13, 2017

Downtown Music Gallery Performance (Sunday, January 15, 2017)

I'll be performing solo this Sunday, January 15, 2017, at the Downtown Music Gallery. It will be a  double-bill with Finnish alto saxist Mikko Innanen (shown in picture) who will also be performing solo. Showtime is at 6:00 PM. Here are the address and phone number: 13 Monrow Street, New York, NY 10002 (212) 473 -0043

If you're not familiar with the DMG, here's a little background information from Wikipedia about this fascinating experimental music oasis:

"Downtown Music Gallery is a long-running internationally known record store, mail-order, and performance space, inNew York City, specializing in "Downtown Music", a recognized catchphrase for avant-garde jazz and contemporary composition, experimental, and improvisational music from around the world. It was founded in 1991, originally at 211 East 5th street for the first ten years of its existence, followed by seven years at 342 Bowery. It is currently located in Two Bridge, Manhattan at 13 Monroe St. Bruce Lee Gallanter, the founder, and Emanuel 'MannyLunch' Maris, formerly the owner of Lunch For Your Ears, run the shop. The store also devotes an entire 700-CD display to John Zorn'sTzadik label, as it also operates the mail-fulfillment for the label. DMG features in-store live performances for free every Sunday night, and on other nights for special occasions. DMG also provides the telephone information service for The Stone performance space, founded 2005."

Below is a picture of one of the performances from their music series.

Soprano saxophonist Gianni Mimmo and violinist Alison Blunt performing at the Downtown Music Gallery.

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