Sam Newsome: The Art of the Soprano Vol. 1

Talking about your tough solo projects! The soprano sax has got to be the Mt. Everest of summits to climb. Steve Lacy made it to the top with a few releases, but most have succumbed to altitude sickness in the attempt. Here, Sam Newsome does an impressive job scaling the heights, using his horn as not only a linear melody instrument, but tonguing it to create a percussive rhythm as well. On this disc, he divides the music into three spheres: Ellington tunes, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, and a collection of African songs. The African songs are intriguing in the way that Newsome uses his instrument not unlike a thumb piano, plucking notes by slap tonguing in a way you’d never dare try at home. The Ellington pieces feel right at home, while the Coltrane ones have some harmonics that would fit right into the tenor players latter era. Daunting material, but both performer and listener come out as survivors, although a bit short of oxygen.

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