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 companyhis gorgeous, evocative tone intact on tenor, soprano, and flute. His unique musical vision still mysterious and accessible, and his technical skill remains riveting.
A straight-ahead groover, "Solace," has Rivers joyfully dancing through the simmering rhythm section. Carrott takes a turn with some Monkish vibes, as Osgood and Street power the expedition. Ellington's "The Mooche" becomes a loping trio that launches Rivers' improvised soprano flights. Osgood turns in a very melodic drum solo. A stirring example of Rivers' sizzling free imagination, "Captain America" hurtles on invisible design. An obtuse samba, "Abalone," has Carrott again sharing the front line. Effortlessly negotiating the spiny theme, he emerges unscathed and sets the stage for Rivers, whose tenor sails a balance between virtuosity and taste.
Osgood and Street establish another mean momentum on "In Search of Buck Benny," and Rivers blows it down delighted. A duet with Osgood, "Turbulence" spins both musicians like adrenaline dust devils. Osgood dusts with the brushes on the languid "Where to Go?!?" Rivers sings soulfully on tenor, countered by Carrott's shimmering vibes. Rivers and Carrott square off for the apparently improvised "Space," a treacherous flash of inspiration that incinerates in four minutes. A moody flute trio, "Moderation," lets Rivers wring buckets of melody out of his instrument with halting rhythm accompaniment.
Purple Violets shows Rivers still at the top of one of the greatest games in jazz. Long may he rave.
Personnel: Sam Rivers: tenor, soprano saxophone, flute; Ben Street: bass; Kresten Osgood: drums;
Bryan Carrott: vibraphone.