jazz, free-jazz and improvised music

sam rhodes | r.i.p. september 13, 2010

Sam Rhodes | This photo shows Sam with his home-made bassoon reeds.| Photograph by Mark Weber August 8, 2010 Albuquerque

About all I know is that Sam

had a heart attack while down in El Paso playing his on-going gig with the El Paso Symphony. Apparently he was taken to the hospital and they operated and then he lingered for a day or two and then he got away from us. Taking us all by surprise. Gone.

Another part of Albuquerque, gone.

I first knew Sam as a bookman. Only later hearing him play his bassoon. Twenty years ago, when I arrived in New Mexico, he was behind the counter at Birdsong Books on Harvard Street. Maybe it was ten years ago he moved over to Page One Two. To be called a bookman is an honorific in the trade. It denotes something beyond a salesman of books, but a book lover and collector and a knowledge of all facets of books. Sam was that. The term — bookman — sounds like something that originated with Samuel Johnson.

The last book he put me onto was GOAT SONG by Brad Kessler, a new book, an account of raising goats and making cheese. I am reading it now in Sam’s memory.

Sam Rhodes, Katie Harlow, CK Barlow, Jon Baldwin of Out of Context, August 8, 2010 | Photo by Mark Weber

GOAT SONG came up in conversation during the break at Joey & Katie’s house during the monthly Out Of Context sessions, which these photos document. Everybody brings a little something to eat and somehow we wound up with several types of cheese. After a bit of noshing, I said to Sam and Joey and Dino, “I’m cheesed out.” And Sam, without missing a beat, said, “Well, you better not stay around for the second set.” Ha ha ha.

Let me also make note of Sam’s soprano saxophone. Let me first say that I am not known to be a big fan of the soprano saxophone. It is too often nasal in tone and 80% of the time out-of-tune. If my memory is correct I think Sam only recently picked up this horn, maybe five years ago. And wow, what a great sound he got out of it. Beautifully round and warm ( in tune ! ) and purely swooping lyrical.

I released quite a few recordings of this magnificent ensemble Out Of Context, under the direction of J.A.Deane. Sam was in the group maybe six years? These records can be found on Zerx Records. Rest in Peace, Sam Rhodes, Bookman & Bassoonist. —Mark Weber | 23sept10

Sam Rhodes, Joey Sabella,  Katie Harlow, CK Barlow, Jon Baldwin of Out of Context, August 8, 2010 |
Photo by Mark Weber

listen to Out Of Context | Sand & Wind


The Out of Context Ensemble was founded by Dino J.A. Deane in 1997. (Dino has been a member of Butch Morris’ ensembles since Conduction #3)

“Conduction” is a vocabulary of signs and gestures transmitted by a conductor to an orchestra providing instantaneous possibilities for altering or initiating harmony, melody, rhythm, articulation, phrasing or form. Morris himself cites an early substitution for musical notation called “chironomy,” dating from1500 B.C.

Deane’s goal in founding the ensemble was to have no goal. His intention was to work with a group slowly over time to allow the ensemble to develop a deep understanding and skill with this revolutionary way of creating music. Over the course of 13 years of continual development, the ensemble has realized a real-time score to the classic 1932 silent film “Peter Pan”, a concert at the Georgia O’Keeffe museum “playing” the photographs of Edward Weston, a concert “playing” the book — 1″ = 25 Miles, by Sumner Carnahan, a score for the film The Burden Carriers, by Pierre Barrera and a theatrical score for Theater Grottesco’s Wenomadmen. OOC has released 4 critically acclaimed CD’s and contributed several new signs and gestures to the Conduction Lexicon.

OUT OF CONTEXT are: Dino J.A. Deane – Conductor | Jon Baldwin – Cornet | C.K. Barlow – Sampler/LiveSampling | Matt Deason – Electric Bass/Electronics | John Flax – Voice | Katie Harlow – Cello | Joseph Sabella – Vibes/Percussion | Carlos Santistevan – Acoustic Bass | Bonnie Schmader – Alto Flute | Molly Sturges – Voice | Alicia Ultan – Viola | Jefferson Voorhees – Drums/Percussion


  1. Carlos Santistevan

    Sam…You will be dearly missed. Your warm demeanor and laugh will never leave my memory. The beauty of your music will forever be missed. Thanks for sharing the times we had together….

  2. Sumner Carnahan

    Sam was a beautiful erudite gentle man, soft-spoken, and mournful in notes, singing with a tone that seemed from a distant, distinguished era. Dear sweet person. Every conversation was an intense pleasure.

  3. Eric Brahinsky

    I am shocked and saddened to read this. I have just now learned about Sam’s death seven weeks after the fact.

    Sam and I were best friends growing up in Dallas — from fifth grade (when his family moved there from San Antonio) through high school. I am a classical musician (violinist) and come from a musical family. Sam often acknowledged that “hanging out” with me and spending time with my family was a major factor in his gravitating to classical music (heaven knows his family had no interest in classical music and were vocal in their opposition to his involvement in it!). As we went our separate ways, we stayed in touch — fairly closely at first, but gradually less and less. When I married in 1995, I fulfilled a childhood pledge and invited him to be my best man, which he graciously accepted.

    Sam went through some rough times but seemed to have ultimately surmounted every challenge and become a stronger person for it. What I (and, I’m sure everyone who knew him) will remember is his blazing intelligence and his incredible skill at every sort of artistic endeavor (music performance and composition, prose and poetry writing, visual art and sculpture, etc., etc.) he touched.

    Those of us who were privileged to have known Sam will miss his presence deeply.

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