This CD features selections from three musical suites, two of which were adapted to the soprano and one composed for the soprano: A Love Supreme, Soprano de Africana, and something I call The Ellington Medley, a medley of Duke Ellington pieces that I often perform as a suite during my solo concerts.
All of these allowed me to create three distinct moods throughout the CD. A Love Supreme is interpreted slow and atmospheric, in stark contrast to the original. I recorded it using a technique whereby I play into the strings of the piano, while pressing down the damper pedal, creating a rich, harmonic soundscape that results from the sound of the soprano vibrating the piano strings; while Soprano de Africana is very rhythmic and groove oriented, drawing influences from West African drum traditions; the Ellington Medley is probably the most conventional in terms of the form and the harmonic structure of each tune.
This practice of playing musical suites actually began in the 16th century during the Baroque period as an ordered set of dance tunes, usually to be played in a sitting. However, by the 19th century it had lost its reliance on dance forms, and the suite began to represent instrumental works with multiple movements--some well-known ones being Bach’s Cello Suites Nos. 1- 6, Handel’s Water Music, and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.
Famous ones by jazz composers include Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite, Sonny Rollins’ Freedom Jazz Suite, and of course John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. There are even some lesser known ones written for the soprano saxophone: The Tao Suite and The 4 Edges—both of which were composed by Steve Lacy, recorded on his CD, Snips.
One thing I didn’t want to do on this CD was to have it sound like a tribute recording, which would have been the case had a played each suite in it’s entirety. So I decided to intertwine the three suites, shuffling them like a deck of cards. This way the uniqueness of each suite is heard throughout the CD, instead of only appearing in one small corner of the recording.
This is the first solo recording in which I overdub the saxophone. I stayed away from that sort of thing on Monk Abstractions and Blue Soliloquy, fearing that it would sound very cliche(ish) and corny. And I felt it would negate all of my efforts using multi-phonics.
While I was working on “Burkino Faso” and “Zulu Witch Doctor,” I decided to overdub the soprano, almost as an artistic dare, just to hear what it sounded like. And I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. In large, I think it’s because I layered the sax as a percussion part, and not as a harmony part. Also, layering percussion instruments is more of a common practice, and it tends to sound better.
Sam Newsome, soprano saxophone
Recorded, June 2011 at Avatar Studios (NYC)
Mastered, August 2011
Recording and mastering engineer, Katsuhiko Naito
Photos: Sam Newsome (Photos were taken in the Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts)
For further views about the soprano or music, in general, please visit www.sopranosaxtalk.blogspot.com
The CD is dedicated to the memory of the late soprano saxophone master, Lol Coxhill.