Q&A with veteran multifaceted musician Sam Morrison, he has left an indelible mark on the world of jazz

"My music is the aura of where I am at physically, emotionally and what makes me happy and satisfied. It’s enjoyable and intoxicating to create. The ultimate creation can be relaxing or energizing, enlightening, enriching, an awakening and always rewarding. That’s the main meaning and goal of my life in music."

Sam Morrison: Whatever... Jazz Sutra

Sam Morrison is a multifaceted musician known for his mastery of the soprano and tenor saxophones, as well as his artistry on the alto and bass flutes. With a career that spans several decades, he has left an indelible mark on the world of jazz, collaborating with legendary artists and contributing to iconic recordings. One of the standout moments in Sam’s career was his membership in the esteemed Miles Davis Band. His performance alongside Miles Davis at the 1975 Newport Jazz Festival, held that year at Avery Fisher Hall, garnered rave reviews from The New York Times. A portion of that historic concert’s recording has recently been released in the Miles Davis bootleg series, “Volume 4: 1955-1975 Newport Jazz Festival.” Collectors and enthusiasts can also find bootleg recordings of concert and club performances featuring Sam Morrison with the Miles Davis Band, testifying to the lasting impact of his contributions. Sam Morrison’s musical journey extends beyond his time with Miles Davis. He has collaborated with an array of jazz, rock, and blues luminaries, including Gil Evans, Al Foster, Buster Williams, Woody Shaw, Billy Hart, T-Bone Walker, Michael Shrieve, Michael Brecker, Masabumi Kikuchi, and Ryo Kawasaki.                                            (Sam Morrison / Photo © by Roberto Cifarelli)

As a member of “The Children on the Corner,” the Electric Miles reunion band featuring bass legend Michael Henderson and jazz tabla pioneer Badal Roy, Sam continues to explore new dimensions in jazz fusion. His musical education began at Columbia University in New York City, where he immersed himself in the vibrant jazz scene, frequenting legendary clubs like Slugs and the Village Vanguard. He also experienced the groundbreaking rock acts of the era at Fillmore East, further expanding his musical horizons. Sam Morrison's new album titled “Whatever: Anthology 1” (October 2023) on Blue Buddha Productions. Sam Morrison's contributions to the world of music continue to evolve and inspire. Currently, Sam Morrison is actively working on a new trio album featuring Michael Shrieve, the original Santana drummer from Woodstock, and Patrick Gleeson, an electronic music and synth pioneer known for his collaborations with Herbie Hancock. Additionally, his forthcoming solo album is eagerly anticipated, with remixing by the legendary bassist, producer, and remixer Bill Laswell. 

Interview by Michael Limnios           Special Thanks: Billy James (Glass Onyon PR)

How has the Jazz influenced your views of the world? What moment changed your music life the most?

Jazz has taught me to live in the moment. Spontaneity of improvisation demands that you must be present and aware of your surroundings and intuitive and trusting of your ability to create. Meeting Miles Davis and joining his band was my single most life changing moment.

How do you describe your sound and music philosophy? Where does your creative drive come from?

My current sound for the past 20 or so years has been a fusion of my woodwinds, influenced by Miles, Trane, Wayne, etc. combined with a love of synthesis, electronic music. I try to find new ways to link these genres, interesting ways to compose songs, and new sounds to incorporate with the old. This experimental concept drives me to create new music daily and search for groundbreaking sounds and formulations.

Currently you’ve one release on Blue Buddha Productions. How did that relationship come about?

I became acquainted with Eliot through his radio show exploring the music of Bill Laswell, with whom I have a project pending release. Making Anthology 1 has a lot of history. Miles Away and Song of Landa are from my Dune album that was recorded IN NYC in 1976 at Vanguard Studio with Al Foster, Buster Williams, Michael Wolff, and Ryo Kawasaki. That was really a great learning experience at 24 years old with some great masters.

"I don’t really miss very much old school stuff really. I’m quite happy and feel lucky to be able to play with and create with the newest available tools of technology and still have links to the past, my woodwinds, that keep me focused. I don’t fear for the future of music. Just trying my utmost to be part of it and help guide it in new directions."  (Sam Morrison / Photo © by Roberto Cifarelli)

Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new album “Whatever : Anthology 1”?

Dune is from the live recording in 1978 at Eric's in NYC and features Steve Gaboury and Luico Hopper. My band played there a lot that summer and all featured Michael and Kevin Shrieve. The rest are more recent recordings from my newer albums that I've been doing in Logic on my Mac computer with tenor and soprano saxophone and alto and bass flute.

Are there any memories from Gil Evans, Miles Davis, and T-Bone Walker which you’d like to share with us?

Miles asked me the first night in Boston “Are you just white or can you play?”. After the set he said ”You play your white ass off!”. I was amazed when he recorded one of my songs, Song of Landa, and added a funky section to it. I played a few after hour dates with T-Bone Walker in East Palo Alto when I was very young, maybe 19 or 20. It was so cool, and I was honored. I only did a couple of concerts with Gil and was really impressed by how great his writing was, and how loose he and the large band was just letting it flow.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I don’t really miss very much old school stuff really. I’m quite happy and feel lucky to be able to play with and create with the newest available tools of technology and still have links to the past, my woodwinds, that keep me focused. I don’t fear for the future of music. Just trying my utmost to be part of it and help guide it in new directions.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would make it much easier for musicians making creative and experimental music to earn money from cd sales. Spotify and Apple should pay much more.

"Jazz has taught me to live in the moment. Spontaneity of improvisation demands that you must be present and aware of your surroundings and intuitive and trusting of your ability to create. Meeting Miles Davis and joining his band was my single most life changing moment."

(Photo: Sam Morrison, Avery Fisher Hall New York 1975)

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

The most important musical lessons learned include taking everything you’ve learned in your life and selectively incorporate it in your music. It could be sci-fi movies or alternate universe (playing out) lectures. Interpret it musically and make it your own musical direction.

John Coltrane said "My music is the spiritual expression of what I am...". How do you understand the spirit, music, and the meaning of life?

My music is the aura of where I am at physically, emotionally and what makes me happy and satisfied. It’s enjoyable and intoxicating to create. The ultimate creation can be relaxing or energizing, enlightening, enriching, an awakening and always rewarding. That’s the main meaning and goal of my life in music.

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