Album: Chaos Theory: Song Cycles for Prepared Saxophone
Street Date: June 3, 2019
Sam Newsome's new solo saxophone recording, Chaos Theory: Song Cycles for Prepared Saxophone appeals to anyone willing to immerse him or herself in what’s before them: Newsome’s innovative approach to the soprano saxophone and contributions to the solo saxophone canon.
While the album is quite obviously a result of Newsome’s unapologetic desire to delve into the sonic potential of his instrument, the saxophonist’s primary concern, first and foremost, is listenability. Actively in search of creating music that is both fresh and relatable, Newsome’s sound palette coddles the ear as it challenges the mind.
“There’s noise, grooves, pretty melodies, and sometimes straight up craziness. But at the end of the day, what I hope you hear is music.”
Some of the tracks on Chaos Theory feature sounds familiar from previous Newsome records—layered tracks, chimes hung from the horn, altered brass mutes fitted into its bell, multi-phonics, flutter and percussive slap tonguing, micro-tones, air sounds and hisses, and various forms of acoustic sound manipulation. However, for this new record, Newsome has augmented his soprano with plastic tubes extending the expanse between neck and mouthpiece - elongating the sound waves emitting from the horn and deepening its range by two or more octaves.
The seemingly effortless interplay between appeal and avant garde, evident in Sam Newsome’s compositions, is a rare combination. While instrument preparations and extended techniques have become the lingua franca of improvised music, Newsome does it with an uncanny level of control - his music never sounds chaotic. Aware of the fine line that exists between stating one’s piece and self-indulging, Newsome believes “that musicians can push the envelope as far as their imaginations will allow and, consequently, their creative endeavors will maintain a lot of its interest, as long as it does not linger too long”. Upon heading into the studio, Newsome’s approach is simple: quit while ahead - concision is key.
Sam Newsome sees himself as a visual artist who paints with notes and sounds rather than shapes and colors. “My music,” says Newsome, “is a type of improvisatory art music in which jazz functions more as a resource than a musical genre to be interpreted with stylistic specificity. While many who play experimental music consider themselves avant gardist, I consider myself an avant traditionalist.”
While Newsome’s approach is unorthodox, it has proven very fruitful, both musically and critically. Steve Lacy once said that the “potential of the saxophone is unlimited.” Newsome’s Chaos Theory proves this time and time again.
Derived from liner notes by Kurt Gottschalk.
MORE ABOUT SAM NEWSOME
New York-based saxophonist and composer Sam Newsome works primarily in the medium of solo saxophone, an approach for which he gained world-wide critical acclaim with the release of his 2009 recording Blue Soliloquy: Solo Works for Soprano Saxophone, which received a five-star review in Downbeat magazine. Newsome has also released six critically acclaimed solo saxophone albums including Sopranoville: Works for Prepared and Non-Prepared Saxophone (2017); The Straight Horn of Africa (2014); The Solo Concert: Sam Newsome Plays Monk and Ellington (2013); and The Art of the Soprano, Vol. 1 (2012). Jazz writer Ed Enright, from Downbeat Magazine, wrote that Mr. Newsome’s The Straight Horn of Africa was “a modern masterpiece.” An associate professor of music, as well as music program coordinator at the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University, Newsome often performs solo saxophone concerts around New York and across the country as well as leading his own trio with bassist Hilliard Greene and drummer Reggie Nicholson. Newsome is a frequent collaborator with drummer Andrew Cyrille, vocalist Fay Victor, pianist Jean-Michel Pilc, saxophonist David Liebman, and pianist Ethan Iverson.
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"The track feels like an action-packed miniature, which is only fitting: as the album’s title implies, it belongs to a coherent whole." Read track feature for "Urban Location" here.
KEVIN LE GENDRE
"The result is adventurous, unorthodox and fascinating." Read the four star review here.
Across all of the pieces, while other musicians might be content to present the listener with swathes of noise, Newsome is continually striving to unearth melodies from these layers of sound." Read the full review here.
A NOISE FROM THE DEEP
Dave talks to Sam Newsome about being a solo soprano saxophonist, how he creates his recordings, and the basic underlying decisions that guide his work. Sam also talks about smooth jazz, as well as about his more recent interest in balloon sculpting and the new areas that is taking his music. Podcast here.
RAUL DA GAMA
JAZZ DA GAMA
"Chaos Theory is a riveting song cycle made by a restless, highly imaginative, peripatetic musician. It extends not only the sound palette of the soprano saxophone, but redraws the whole cultural topography of the straight horn in the realm of improvised music altogether. It is a disc to die for." Full review here.
"Chaos Theory is an extremely varied album; Newsome takes one core idea, runs with it for a minute or three, then stops and tries something else. Some of it's beautiful, but a lot of it will send the average person out of the room screaming, and I honestly can't be sure which response he's prefer." Full review here.
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"That this is all one man no way undercuts how well Newsome can form something out of nothing." Read the full review here.
"Soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome is a prime example of what a modern jazz musician can achieve, with his tone beautifully balancing post-bop characteristics and outside-the-box extended techniques." Read the full feature here.
BRENDA NELSON STRAUSS
"Chaos Theory should appeal to anyone interested in experimental music, especially those with a desire to tinker with instruments." Read the full review here.
DOWNBEAT - EDITOR'S PICK
"I can’t wait to hear what other possibilities Newsome discovers as he dives deeper into his preparations." Read the full review here.
"It’s a thrilling journey into the visceral of the straight sax." Read the full review here.