Since his debut album, Sam I Am (Criss Cross, 1990), saxophonist Sam Newsome's musical conception has grown far beyond conventional bop to encompass a diversity of world-music styles. That transformation is in full effect on Global Unity.
In the early '90s, Newsome was often heard playing tenor with trumpeter Terence Blanchard, but in recent years he has focused almost exclusively on the soprano saxophone. From his phrasing to his tone, it is clear that he has studied Bechet and Hodges, as well as Coltrane, Shorter and Liebman.
Newsome is an engaging storyteller who knows how to conjure real emotion. Even when compelled to quote another musician, Newsome does so in a clever way, e.g., the Miles Davis trumpet figure transposed to steel pans on Global Unity's "Dread Man Walking." Jean-Michel Pilc's piano and Marvin Sewell's guitar have a lulling, caressing quality, while Elisabeth Kontomanou's ethereal voice both contrasts and blends with Newsome's modal sax. Most importantly, Ugonna Okegwo on bass and the pan-ethnic percussion wrecking crew of Gilad, Satoshi Takeishi, Adam Cruz and Jeff Berman have what it takes to keep the groove sounding fresh. Up with Global Unity!