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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sam Rivers: Contrasts

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In a significant discography now approaching forty titles as a leader across five decades, Contrasts stands out as the only recording that left-of-center saxophonist/flautist Sam Rivers led for ECM. Originally released in 1980 on vinyl and previously unavailable on CD, it is finally seeing the light of day again as part of the label's Re:solutions series--and in three formats, no less: CD, four for the first time and one only available previously for a limited time in Japan; high resolution digital download for the first time; and vinyl, once again. It's about time. Rivers made his ECM debut ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sam Rivers / Dave Holland / Barry Altschul: Reunion: Live In New York

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There will be no more opportunities to experience saxophonist Sam Rivers, who passed away in 2011, at 89. Then again, you probably hadn't caught him live in decades, since he chose to live in Florida from the early 1990s, although he did release several large ensemble sessions. His 1960s Blue Note Records and 70s Impulse! dates continue to be treasured classics. What ardent fans and collectors look for these days are his trio LPs with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Barry Altschul. Long out-of-print and treasure-seekers booty, these historic (yet obscure) sounds from Rivers' 1970s trio delineated a new path ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sam Rivers: Fuchsia Swing Song

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The Music Matters reissue of saxophonist Sam Rivers' Fuchsia Swing Song is likely the finest pressing of this record ever produced. Remastered from the original two- track tapes, and pressed on two 180 gram 45 rpm LPs, this vinyl is dead quiet, and sonically stunning. The instruments are huge in the soundstage and the clarity blows any CD version--and likely most prior vinyl versions--out of the water. Add to that a gorgeous gatefold cover with additional session photos and thick plastic sleeve liners, and this truly ranks as a first-class, ultra deluxe edition of this 1964 Blue Note classic.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sam Rivers/Ben Street/Kresten Osgood: Violet Violets

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Since this group's first CD was called Purple Violets, what would be more appropriately redundant than naming the sequel Violet Violets? The legendary Sam Rivers did it again--actually both CD's are a result of the same great session, and this is another one without a dull moment. The lineup is the same, except vibraphonist Bryan Carrott is not featured on these tracks.

The young and very talented Danish drummer Kresten Osgood suggested this project to the Danish Stunt jazz label. Other results of Osgood's initiatives have included gigs and/or recordings with Oliver Lake and Dr Lonnie Smith.

The ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sam Rivers/Ben Street/Kresten Osgood/Bryan Carrott: Purple Violets

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Sam Rivers has the energy of an old Taoist master. On his infrequent trips to Los Angeles, he's relaxed after gigs by mixing it up with local musicians all night long. One such after hours session resulted in Vista, with Adam Rudolph and Harris Eisenstadt. A night in Denmark resulted in Purple Violets, a collection of duets, trios, and quartets featuring Ben Street on bass, Kresten Osgood on drums, and occasionally Bryan Carrott on vibes. Rivers runs in good company--his gorgeous, evocative tone intact on tenor, soprano, and flute. His unique musical vision still mysterious and accessible, and his technical ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Purple Violets, Contours and Dance With Death

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Sam Rivers Purple Violets Stunt 2005

I've frequently called Sam Rivers the most criminally undervalued giant in jazz. But it's getting harder to make that claim: this year the maverick 81-year-old sax legend is up for the Jazz Journalists Association's Lifetime Achievement award, and recently everyone from brilliant young pianist Jason Moran to avant gardist Steven Bernstein to Toronto's NOJO have called on the increasingly esteemed Rivers' services. One of Rivers' latest suitors is the young Danish drummer Kresten Osgood, the driving force behind Purple Violets. Recorded in New York with the bassist Ben ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sam Rivers: Contours

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After his Blue Note debut on Fuchsia Swing Song, saxophonist Sam Rivers drifted further “out" on Contours. Reissued as a limited edition connoisseur series CD, this '65 Blue Note outing sparkles anew with 24-bit remastered sound. Playing with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Joe Chambers, Rivers performs four of his more accessible and vigorous compositions. “Point of Many Returns," with its slackened hard bop structure, starts the album with Rivers, Hubbard, and Hancock reinforcing the lively bop bounce set by Carter and Chambers. The second tune, “Dance of the Tripedal," forms a tighter noose ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

NOJO with Sam Rivers: City of Neighbourhoods

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Led by pianist-tubaist Paul Neufeld and guitarist-conductor Michael Occhipinti, the Toronto-based Neufeld/Occhipinti Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) has been wowing audiences up North for a decade now, but has received scant attention here in the States. City of Neighbourhoods , the group's fourth recording and its first to get an American release, ought to change that. The ensemble, which has expanded as large as sixteen pieces, is down to a tight nonet this time around, but it's called in a ringer guest soloist from our side of the border: octogenarian jazz legend Sam Rivers, who brings his soprano and tenor saxophones and ...

INTERVIEWS

Sam Rivers: A Giant Among Us

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[Originally published in the South Carolina Free Times in February 2002] It's been said that jazz is dead.Scores of notable jazz critics have made the claim that jazz, an art form that relies heavily upon change and improvisation, must continue to progress if it is to live and prosper. If the music cannot “constantly reinvent itself," as Ed Bland argues in his 1958 film The Cry of Jazz, then “it will die." Even Wynton Marsalis, the most public spokesman for jazz in the last two decades, has said, “there is no old jazz ... jazz is ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sam Rivers: Contours

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Unlike pianist Andrew Hill, who, late in life, is finally being awarded the accolades he deserves, saxophonist/flautist Sam Rivers never received his proper due and continues to work in relative obscurity. Sure, his name is known amongst those who know, but mention him to casual jazz listeners and most will go “Sam who?" or perhaps, with the recent release of the Miles Davis Seven Steps box, “Oh yeah, the guy who played with Miles for one tour and then got fired."

And it's a shame, because along with Hill and others, including another sadly-overlooked artist, trombonist Grachan Moncur III, Rivers ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Sam Rivers Back at the Bakery

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Less than five months since his Jubilant 80th birthday bash at the Jazz Bakery, as the full moon glared down at manic traffic, Sam Rivers returned with his kaleidoscopic Trio to further blur the lines between magic and art. The empathic musicians rolled tunes, dialogues, and ideas around with the playful enthusiasm of kittens diving after the same ball. Rivers led the charge, resplendent in black leather pants and vest, a lavender shirt and colorful tie. What started as a sparse Friday night crowd quickly filled in with tardy attendees.

The first to take the stage, Doug Matthews began with ...

JAZZ FROM THE VINYL JUNKYARD

Sam Rivers: Contrasts

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As an icon of creative endeavors, the ECM label is world renown for its releases by such heavyweights as Dave Holland, Jan Garbarek, Keith Jarrett, and Jack DeJohnette, to name just a few. Probably much less acknowledged however are those little trinkets of musical pleasure that have fallen through the cracks over the years, several of which also happen to be unavailable on compact disc. In this latter category belongs one of the last major label releases that saxophonist Sam Rivers produced prior to his brief tenure with BMG in the late ‘90s. In a trio of dates ECM produced ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Sam Rivers: Fuschia Swing Song

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1964 was an important year for the jazz saxophone. John Coltrane recorded the seminal A Love Supreme and Eric Dolphy made Out to Lunch, a masterpiece of the early jazz avant-garde.

With that in mind, it’s not as surprising as it is unfortunate that saxophonist Sam Rivers’ debut Fuchsia Swing Song doesn’t get much press. Rivers went on to become one of the most original and important saxophone voices after Coltrane, but in 1964, he was virtually unknown and had just finished a very brief stint with Miles Davis.

Rivers is joined here by two members of that band, bassist ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Sam Rivers Celebrates His 80th at the Jazz Bakery

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Sam Rivers brought his boundless goodwill and energy to the Jazz Bakery for a week to celebrate his 80th birthday with adoring fans. The amazing Rivers played two sets a night, and jammed and recorded with local musicians after hours. The ebullient octogenarian performed with his longtime trio featuring Doug Matthews and Anthony Cole. Like Rivers, both Matthews and Cole are multi-instrumentalists yielding a variety of configurations, sometimes within the same piece. Matthews played acoustic bass, six string electric bass, and bass clarinet. Cole took turns on drums, piano, and tenor sax. With Rivers covering his usual tenor sax, soprano, ...



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