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Talking with the silly saxman Sam Greenfield, plus a ticket giveaway

Saxophonist Sam Greenfield brings his vivid music and humor to Seattle this Friday night
Sam Greenfield
Saxophonist Sam Greenfield brings his vivid music and humor to Seattle Friday night.

The New Cool previews live jazz this week. With a sense of humor to match his musical skills, Sam Greenfield brings his band to Seattle's Seamonster Lounge Friday.

Also this week, enter to win tickets to see BadBadNotGood at the Victoria Jazz Festival June 28.

Sam Greenfield has blazed a unique path in his young musical career. Dropping out of high school in his senior year, the Philadelphia native went to Israel to study jazz. It was a surprising trip in more ways than one, as he relayed in a recent KNKX interview.

Greenfield said he had high hopes; "I'm gonna be this hot shot from America!" But he quickly discovered a very advanced and diverse Israeli jazz scene. "There are a ton of insane[ly talented)] musicians in Israel, like everywhere," he said.

Returning home with an expanded musical perspective, Greenfield earned a college degree and found a spot playing saxophone in New Jersey progressive rock band Thank You Scientist. The band gave him an opportunity to tour and opened up his mind to music outside jazz.

Guitarist and bandleader Cory Wong proved to be Greenfield's most consequential musical connection, and it came about with a little help from his friend.

Greenfield's buddy from Philadelphia, trombonist Ian Gray contacted Wong on one of his early tours in 2018 when a horn section was too expensive for road trips. Gray offered to supply horns for some concerts on the East Coast, including Greenfield on sax.

"He quickly realized, 'Oh. I can't not have horns now!' and I've been with him since 2019," Greenfield said with a laugh.

Inevitably, Greenfield was inspired by Wong to strike out on his own. A big part of that adventure was a move from his home in Philadelphia to the cultural mecca of New York City. Sadly, his timing was terrible, arriving on March 1, 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic closures.

Shifting gears, Greenfield took advantage of the isolation and committed to developing his own sound and learning how to produce it at home.

"Cory called and asked if I could record from home and I told him 'yes', even though I didn't," Greenfield admitted. He immediately bought a microphone and production software and jumped in with both feet.

"Now I can't imagine life without a home studio," he said.

Alone at home, Greenfield found that without outside influences he discovered himself as an artist. Pointing to his popular early single "Banana Song," he explained the song "was a product of me being in isolation and not having anyone around to tell me not to [do] that song. I learned to trust my gut during the pandemic."

Cover of saxophonist Sam Greenfield's latest album
With permission from Sam Greenfield
Sam Greenfield bandcamp
Cover of saxophonist Sam Greenfield's latest album

That song's silly subject matter and catchy melody show Greenfield's artistic soul. He is the first to say so: "I'm a very silly, goofy person!"

His common love for jazz fusion and happy pop attracted English vocal group The Swingles and brought them together for an epic updated version of "Banana Song" last year.

More examples of Greenfield's irreverent humor can be found in the title and on the cover of his recent album Sam Greenfield Sucks, featuring a picture of the artist with spaghetti pouring from his mouth.

"I'm self-deprecating - and also, there's only so much you can do to get people to pay attention," he said. "If you give them a cover like that, you're going to shock them into listening."

While largely instrumental, the album is not entirely without vocals. Greenfield sings lyrics on a handful of his songs and English singer Phoebe Katis is providing vocals on this tour.

The catchy, upbeat melodies Greenfield writes do have a formula of sorts.

"My family recipe for composition is that I like to write chord changes that move around a lot, but they keep one common denominator note," Greenfield explained. "You can write a really catchy melody that fits over a complex chord progression."

When asked about more "recipes" he's planning for a follow-up album, Greenfield lit up.

"I can't say when it's coming, but I've never been more excited for a release in my entire life," he exclaimed.

Seattle fans get their chance to party with Greenfield's band at the Seamonster Lounge Friday night at 8 p.m. The band will include singer Katis and a quartet of friends from both Philadelphia and New York. Bring your dancing shoes and be ready to laugh.

Looking ahead to the Victoria Jazz Festival later this month, KNKX is grateful to offer one pair of tickets to see the celebrated modern jazz group BadBadNotGoodat the Royal Theatre June 28. Enter HERE to win, and good luck!

The New Cool airs Fridays at 9 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Washington. LISTEN ON DEMAND

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Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.