Sam Newsome | Monk Abstractions

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Monk Abstractions

by Sam Newsome

Voted as "2007 BEST TRIBUTE RECORDING" by All About Jazz - New York, this solo saxophone CD takes listeners on a soprano saxophone-centric journey of the world of Thelonious Monk.
Genre: Jazz: Modern Free Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Monk Abstraction No 1
1:55 $0.99
2. Boo Boo's Birthday
3:46 $0.99
3. Skippy
4:08 $0.99
4. Ask Me Now
3:39 $0.99
5. Monk Abstraction No 2
1:53 $0.99
6. Misterioso
4:39 $0.99
7. Four In One
4:37 $0.99
8. Monk Abstraction No 3
1:51 $0.99
9. Ugly Beauty
5:01 $0.99
10. Monk Abstraction No 4
1:10 $0.99
11. Straight, No Chaser
2:58 $0.99
12. Crepuscule With Nellie
3:10 $0.99
13. Rhythm-a-ning
4:25 $0.99
14. Monk Abstraction No 5
3:01 $0.99
15. Twinkle-Tinkle
4:01 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Saxophonist Sam Newsome, best known for his work with his cross-cultural ensemble Global Unity, has now embarked upon a new direction in his career with the release of his debut solo saxophone recording Monk Abstractions. Several years in the making, this CD is the culmination of Mr. Newsome’s work highlighting multi-phonics (playing two or more notes simultaneously) and various extended saxophone techniques that far exceed the expectations of the instrument.

This CD is a cohesive selection of original pieces showcasing Mr. Newsome’s unique style and innovations on the instrument, intertwined with classic works of Thelonious Monk--also paying homage to the late soprano saxophone master Steve Lacy, who helped pioneer the solo saxophone format.

Mr. Newsome, who has been honing the solo saxophone format several years, was inspired by the Steve Lacy recording Snips, which was Lacy’s first U.S. solo soprano saxophone recording. Newsome states, “This recording changed the way I heard instrument. I really heard it’s full potential for telling a story. And the sonic possibilities are off the charts.”

All of the tracks on this CD were recorded without any overdubs, special effects, or fancy edits; the only accompanying instrument on this date was the studio microphone. Newsome states, “My goal was to set a new standard for the soprano saxophone as being able to perform multiple roles, simultaneously--much in the same way that Paganini's 24 Capricci for violin raised the bar for the unaccompanied violin.”

Please visit Mr. Newsome’s website for updates, downloads, purchase options:



to write a review


This is an excellent album, quite unique. I recently had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Newsome play at Yoshis in San Francisco and my feelings about the soprano sax are forever changed. Bravo.

Richard B. Kamins,

a smartly executed ...a stream-of-consciousness...
Soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome has issued a daring new solo CD. "Monk Abstractions" (self-released) features 10 compositions by Thelonious Monk and 5 "Abstractions." Monk's music can be considered some of the most recognizable of the 20th and now 21st Century. "Misterioso", "Straight No Chaser", "Ask Me Now", and "Crepuscule with Nellie" are but 4 of the songs Newsome reinvents and they have melodies most jazz fans can hum in their sleep.
But, on this recording, the artists asks you to listen with new ears, an open mind, and hopes you remember that creative music is not something that should be carved in stone. Every musician (and, to a great extent, serious listener) must venture into the history of the music while creating his or her own story and it must happen on bandstands, in basements, and in the privacy of the home.

Other than Monk himself, one of the great interpreters of this music was the late soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy (1934-2004.) Throughout his long career, Lacy returned time and time again to Monk, continuously finding new ways of making the sounds fresh. But, he almost always performed the music with a rhythm section. No such propulsion for Newsome. His is the only voice you hear although one could easily argue Monk's (musical) voice rises out of the straight horn. He approaches the melodies without fear. For example, he becomes his own rhythm section by tapping on the keys of his instrument on several tracks including "Misterioso", where his percussion sounds like raindrops. "Ask Me Now" is one of the prettier melodies in the program and Newsome seems to back into the melody, "abstracting" it first, then working through the chorus and verse. Sometimes harsh, sometimes achingly lovely, creating several note at the same time (multiphonics), his approach draws the listeners attention inward, into the heart of the piece.

Freed of strict rhythm, the pieces take on new lives. The melody line of "Ugly Beauty" sounds like it could have be written by Debussy while "Straight No Chaser" could be the soundtrack to a dance piece choreographed by Bill T. Jones. There's joy and swagger in the latter, perhaps like a child coming home from school or lovers moving through the park on a sunlit morning after. As for the 5 "Abstractions", it's not a matter of Newsome channeling or imitating Monk; the composer-performer calls them "palate cleansers" but the works also allow him to set the stage for what follows. They are an aural reminder of "finding your own story in the history of the music."

Thelonious Monk (1917-82) had a long career, was in at the creation of be-bop and found his own voice.He often returned to the compositions he wrote in the late 40s and early 50s, finding new ways to phrase his solos and parse his melody lines, continually exploring until he stopped playing in the early 1970s. He was called a "minimalist" composer perhaps because his melodies and accompaniments often felt "spare." One could say Sam Newsome has taken a "minimalist" approach, paring the music down to one person on one instrument. Yet, he has created a program rich with sounds, a smartly executed stream-of-consciousness that is joyous and satisfying to those who sit and listen. If you don't pay attention, it's just sound. If you do, it's quite a delightful 51 minutes.

For more information, go to You'll be able to hear tracks from "Monk Abstractions" and even download a free track. One also gets to read the excellent liner notes also written by Newsome.

Sari N. Kent,

"...a jazz album that showcases one artist’s superb skill on the soprano sax."
Monk Abstractions, from Sam Newsome, is an eminently skilled album from a soprano saxophonist, who has been playing professionally since he was 15 years old. Born in Salisbury, Maryland, he attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston and studied sax with jazz artistes like Billy Pierce and Andy McGhee. Newsome’s unique style and rhythm make him one jazz performer that listeners will flock to again and again.

The first track begins with high-pitched notes, which lag on for a prolonged amount of time. This seems to be a staple on the album as Newsome does it on a great number of the songs. The tempo of the song makes it one that could be in a chase scene in a movie where the suspense causes the audience to be on the edge of their seats.

The second track continues with the holding of specific notes for long periods, but the tone here is more upbeat and jazzy. On this song, Newsome halts and then changes the musical tone. This switch in pitch shows Newsome’s prowess on the instrument.

On the third track listeners can hear Newsome breathing between notes as he blows lightning fast beats. Each is shorter than the one before. Then Newsome proceeds to go down the songful scale, showing listeners that he knows exactly what he is doing, and they do not doubt it for one second.

The fourth track goes a different route with its light and whimsical pace. Yet, Newsome still grips some of the high-pitched notes as if for dear life, which this late in the album might get on listeners nerves or delight others.

Sam Newsome’s Monk Abstractions is a jazz album that showcases one artist’s superb skill on the soprano sax. His seamless movement from slow to fast tempo will shock listeners and make them yearn for more.

Sari N. Kent,

Mark Corroto, All About Jazz

Newsome expands the sound of a single soprano saxophone into a one man band.
Saxophonist Sam Newsome presents ten of his favorite Monk compositions and five, as he calls them, “sound-palate cleansers,” being Monk abstractions for soprano saxophone. Of course, taking on Monk’s music via soprano saxophone has been done before, Steve Lacy being the archetype player. Lacy's torch-bearing for Monk is well known and documented. Newsome pays heavy respects to Lacy’s work, while extending the concept of a solo saxophone concert.

These short-ish pieces (the longest is 5 minutes) will be instantly recognizable to Monk fans. Newsome doesn’t so much deconstruct Monk as he personalizes him. On "Misterioso” and “Rhythm-a-ning” he begins by pecking out notes with his circular breathing before bridging with multi-phonics. These string bass imitations are just part and parcel of his one-man band approach. Elsewhere, as on “Twinkle-Tinkle,” he flutters piano notes and multi-phonics through his horn like a two-horn front line. His playing is everywhere both old and new, you hear soprano saxophonists Sidney Bechet and Evan Parker, sometime within the same stanza!

He states “Boo Boo’s Birthday” then echoes it back without studio effects or overdubs. This studied and imaginative approach never lags over the CD's fifty minutes. Newsome programs five “Monk Abstractions” throughout the recording as interludes, as a contrast to the familiar Monk themes. Freed from our expectations. On “No. 2” he jockeys into the circular world Evan Parker fancies; on “No. 3” the chamber approach to multi- phonics.

In his well crafted liner notes, Newsome acknowledges his four saxophone influences to be Lacy, Sonny Rollins, Evan Parker and Anthony Braxton. Certainly good company to keep, but Newsome doesn't merely mimick those players: he has assimilated their music music into his own concept.

Newsome also explains in his notes that Monk wrote most of his work for the right-hand, treble-end of the piano keyboard, and observes that this makes it well suited for soprano saxophone. That may be true, but Newsome expands the sound of a single soprano saxophone into a one man band.

Xavier P. for RadioIndy

Creative and inventive saxophone CD. Pick up a copy.
“Monk Abstractions” invites listeners into the interesting musical world of saxophonist Sam Newsome. Recreating some of the classic works of Thelonious Monk and creating a few his own, Sam pioneers into new musical territory by refining the traditional role of the sax. Free-flowing sax compositions give listeners a refreshing sense of musical liberation. Moreover, Sam experiments with new techniques and saxophone formats. Minimal production allows listeners’ focus to be solely on the sax and its fluid arrangements. If you enjoy the sounds of the soprano sax pushed to new limits, this is the CD for you!

Glenn Astarita, exceptionally creative spin on paths previously traversed...
Saxophonist/educator Sam Newsome took his time constructing these solo soprano sax interpretations of pianist Thelonious Monk’s songbook. He employs multiphonics and other techniques, but thankfully, none of these works are superfluous or overstay their welcome, which can be the case during solo anything type endeavors.

Newsome uncovers hidden attributes within these Monk compositions amid the five sequentially titled “Monk Abstraction No. 1-5” pieces that are strategically placed within the body of the album. He weaves, dances and flickers through these pieces via microtonal theme-building exercises, nicely integrated within the familiar rhythmic structures and tone of Monk’s patented style. On compositions such as “Skippy, Misterioso,” and others; he bops, dances, darts and often envelops the respective melody lines with artful reengineering maneuvers. And while Newsome personalizes these comps, he retains the inherent flavor of the late pianist’s musical aura.

On “Monk Abstraction No. 4,” the saxophonist conjures up a mechanical, gruff-toned sound, largely contrasted with extended notes and poignantly arranged sub-motifs. And then on “Rhythm-a-ning,” Newsome pops out the melody and rhythm with split-notes while segueing into the primary theme with the lyricism of a jazz vocalist. In sum, Newsome casts an exceptionally creative spin on paths previously traversed while providing a mini-clinic along the way.

Glenn Astarita,