Erie Times-News
'I just play saxophone'
'My goal is to play modern music,' says Adam Niewood, 'not looking backward but forward.'
by Bob Protzman
Contributing writer
August 31, 2006

To copy or not to copy, that has been the question. As the son of highly regarded saxophonist Gerry Niewood, that riff on a noted Shakespeare line is something jazz saxophonist Adam Niewood has always been aware of.

Since the 29-year-old Niewood plays the same instrument as his father, how much does he play like his dad?

In an interview, Adam made it clear that there's a vast difference between the Niewoods.
"I just play saxophone," he said from his New York apartment. "My dad is a gifted 'doubler,' who plays flute, c-flute, alto flute - the entire flute family - plus b-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, alto, tenor, soprano, and baritone. He has a tremendous voice on all of them."

Adam, however, says he's had his hands full with tenor, soprano, and alto saxes.

"There was so much exploration that I found I had to undergo, that adding flute or clarinet simply would have confused me."

Adam's main axe these days is the tenor saxophone. He'll bring that, along with his soprano, when he plays Saturday night at Papermoon Restaurant.

Niewood will bring along copies of his 2004 debut CD, "Introducing Adam Niewood" (Native Language), an album that has drawn praise from critics and saxophonists such as Phil Woods, David Liebman, and Greg Osby.
Niewood says he's especially proud of a line from Osby's e-mail: "I really enjoy your work, first and foremost for the very fact that it's not strikingly obvious who your inspiration on the instrument is."

"It made me blush," Niewood said.

Niewood acknowledges that he can't help but emulate his father's playing at times.

"Every time I play the saxophone, I think of my dad. He's part of who I am and how I came to be a saxophonist."
Gerry Niewood excels on sopranosax. He gained national attention as a member of trumpeter / flugelhornist Chuck Mangione's band in the late 1960s through the '70s, and went on to tour with a wide variety of artists, including Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan, Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee.

Clearly, his father is a major influence, but Niewood also talks admiringly about the music of sax players like Wayne Shorter, Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano, and others.

"Like them, my goal is to play modern music, not looking backward but forward. I want people to hear the history of the music in my playing, hear all my influences, but know that I'm not ripping them off.

Adam Niewood grew up in Glen Ridge, N.J. His mom, Gurly, was a classical pianist and clarinetist, so it seemed almost a certainty that Adam would find himself involved in music in some way.

On his Web site , he notes that at age 5, he already had traveled with his "old man" on two world tours with Simon and Garfunkel and Liza Minnelli.
Then it was off to kindergarten.

"It was quite a transition."

In fourth grade, Adam started on clarinet. He switched to alto sax, then in high school to tenor. In high school, he made another world tour - this time playing second tenor in an all-star big band led by Mangione.

"That was all I needed to convince me that I wanted to go to music school," he said.

So it was off to Berklee in Boston; William Paterson University in Jersey, where he earned a bachelor's degree in music performance; the new jazz program at Juilliard in New York; then the Manhattan School of Music, where he gained a master's in May of 2005.
His career quick-started after he met drummer Bill Goodwin at an International Association of Jazz Educators conference. Goodman, who had played countless times with his father, introduced Adam to the real jazz performing and recording worlds.

"I'm very fortunate that a seasoned professional was patient enough to take me under his wing," Niewood said.

Niewood says he doesn't mind when people bring up his dad, but he's careful never to use his father's name to get ahead.

"I draw the line there. If I can't play, I can't play, no matter whose son I am. My dad earned everything he got. Now I'm trying to earn my way."

Saxophonist Adam Niewood will appear Saturday from 8:30-11:30 p.m. at Papermoon Restaurant, 1325 State St. Cover charge is $5. Niewood will be backed by Basil Ronzitti, piano; Joe Dorris, drums; Tony Stefanelli, bass; Nick Ronzitti, percussion. For details, call 455-7766.


For More Information about Adam Niewood, visit online at www.niewood.com.
Bob Protzman hosts 'Everything Jazz'on Sundays from 9-midnight on WQLN-FM 91.3. You can reach him at protz@verison.net or jazzhosts@wqln.org.

Last changed: August 31. 2006 6:54AM

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