Saxophonist Sam Newsome first came into prominence on the New York jazz scene as a member of the Terence Blanchard Quintet in the early 1990s, whose core members consisted of Blanchard on trumpet, Bruce Barth on piano, Tarus Mateen on bass, Troy Davis on drums, and Newsome on the tenor saxophone. The group toured all over the world as well as recorded several CDs for the Columbia/Sony label, including the critically-acclaimed “Malcolm X Jazz Suite.”
Newsome, who was feeling uninspired by his sound on the tenor, along with his inability to shake his early influences, seemed to find hope and inspiration in the sound of the soprano saxophone, which, consequently, lead to his radical change in 1996 that resulted in him trading in the larger tenor saxophone, for the smaller, more difficult soprano saxophone. When asked why he made the switch, Newsome said, “The sound of the soprano allowed me to play with the freedom of not having to carry on my shoulders, decades of the great tenor saxophone legacy. I felt that the sound that I was producing was my own. That was very liberating.”
Consequently, this lead to Newsome to broaden his musical and sonic palette as he began studying music from North Africa, Japan, and the Middle East--incorporating non-Western scales into his musical vocabulary. He soon formed Global Unity, which was to become his working band for the next seven years. Global Unity consisted of a wide range of musicians from all over the world: vocalist Elisabeth Kontomanou, oud player Amos Hoffman, guitarist Marvin Sewell, pianist Jean-Michel Pilc, bassist Ugonna Okegwo, and percussionists Gilad and Satoshi Takeishi. They released two CDs: Sam Newsome & Global Unity (Columbia/Sony) in 1999, and Global Unity (Palmetto) in 2001.
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 lead 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.
The fruits of his labor culminated with the 2007 release of his critically acclaimed solo saxophone CD, Monk Abstractions (Some New Music) on which he recorded ten (10) compositions of Thelonious Monk’s. Mark Corroto from All About Jazz wrote: “Newsome expands the sound of a single soprano saxophone into a one man band.”
In 2010, Newsome released his second solo saxophone effort, Blue Soliloquy (Some New Music) 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 2014, in addition to being associate professor of jazz studies at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus, Newsome continues to tour, record and develop new ways to explore the soprano saxophone's sonic terrain. His latest as well as his fifth solo saxophone outing is titled The Straight Horn of Africa: A Path to Liberation – The Art of the Soprano, Vol. 2 (Some New Music) has been described by Ed Enright, DownBeat Magazine has described as “a modern masterpiece.”
Newsome is also a frequent collaborator with many creative musicians on the New York jazz scene: pianist Ethan Iverson, drummer Francisco Mora Catlett and AfroHORN, The Collective Identity Saxophone Quartet, violinist Meg Okura and her Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble, and is a member of the new project by The Bad Plus: Science Fiction: The Music of Ornette Coleman—other members include alto saxophonist Tim Berne and trumpeter Ron Miles.
• The Straight Horn of Africa: A Path to Liberation – The Art of the Soprano, Vol. 2 (Some New Music), 2014
• The Solo Concert: Sam Newsome Plays Monk and Ellington (Some New Music), 2013
• The Art of the Soprano, Vol.1 (Some New Music), 2012
• Blue Soliloquy: Solo Works for Soprano Saxophone (Some New Music), 2009
• Monk Abstractions (Some New Music), 2007Bio