As he enters his 80s, Sam Rivers has accomplished the remarkable feat of remaining creatively viable over the course of a 45-plus year career. A free jazz improviser before free jazz improvisation had been given a name, Rivers was sort of the odd man out on the Blue Note roster during the straight-ahead days of its golden period. However, he remained true to the free jazz ethic, went on to spearhead the loft jazz movement in New York in the '70s and ultimately turned his rigorous attention to composing and performing with his own big band.
Violet Violets is the second of a two-part release (the first was called Purple Violets) with a small group completed by bassist Ben Street and drummer Kresten Osgood. The band never entirely renounces the concepts of melody or time and Rivers is always in complete control of his instruments: funky on "Nature Calls Part 1, slippery on "Horatio, succinctly swinging on "Chianti Blues. What starts off as a purr from Rivers on "What a Difference a Day Made turns into a growl and winds up somewhere in between and there is a blistering take on soprano for "Fast Response. But the Lucky Thompson ballad "I Forgot to Remember is handled with a distinguished grace that can only develop with age.
At the time When I Have You was recorded, the late Bent Jaedig was Denmark's leading tenor man and a giant among his bandmates in the Osgood/Jaedig Quartet, a pianoless group that substitutes trombone for trumpet. The CD is programmed to alternate straight-ahead, swinging up-tempo numbers with ballads of uncommon tenderness and beauty.
European players seem to have a particular affinity for ballads, perhaps tapping into a natural cultural melancholy. They understand the tonal qualities of their instruments (the flutter of a reed; the resonance of brass; the reverberation of wood and the continuous buzz of drumming with brushes). It's talent borne by knowledge and respect. With a sound derived from Ben Webster and Dexter Gordon, Jaedig, like the old bull who knows it can be more productive to walk rather than run, is masterful on "Solitaire and the title track, while Kresten Osgood's feathery touch on drums and Jonas Vestergaard's soft double bass plucks suspend the air around the veteran's horn. This hour of music is well-paced and well- prepared, like a meal in a good restaurant, delivered promptly and best eaten ravenously.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Nature Calls Part 1; Horatio; Invisible; Fast Response; I Forgot to Remember; No Time Toulouse; What A Difference A Day Made; Lace; Chianti Blues; Nature Calls Part 2.
Personnel: Sam Rivers: tenor and soprano saxophones, flute; Ben Street: bass; Kresten Osgood: drums.
When I Have You
Tracks: Thanx to Trane; Solitaire; You Say You Care; When I Have You; Madison Avenue; Autumn Nocturne; Rod's Shtick; Detour Ahead; Detour.
Personnel: Bent Jaedig: tenor saxophone; Kresten Osgood; drums; Jonas Vestergaard, bass; Mads Hyhne, trombone.
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