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 about Rivers' imagination, revealing greater freedoms in tone and structure.
Though fully appreciated for his hard bop acrobatics, Hubbard demonstrates an underrated skill on this and other "freer" albums (like Out to Lunch and Components ) to communicate effectively in any and all settings. His solo on the sparse "Euterpe," for example, is muted, giving his message an uncertain voice to match the rhythm section's vague, almost spooky setting. Such a thing would have never fit on one of his Jazz Messengers albums, where uncertainty and doubt were often pounded away. Hancock, as well, is excellent throughout Contours. By this time, Hancock was the pianist of the second great Miles Davis Quintet, and much of his work on this album mirrors his characteristic loose, single-note style. His approach, as on "Point of Many Returns," and both takes of "Mellifluous Cacophony," is equally harmonious and dissonant, lyrical and jagged.
Funny enough, Rivers' presence on the album is strongest in the structure and execution of these four tunes. Though he has good solos throughout, he seems content in hearing the cast execute his vibrant compositions, much as we still do four decades later. Since this is a limited edition reissue, Contours will not be out for long, making this more of a warning than a suggestion: check it out!
Point of Many Returns/ Dance of the Tripedal/ Euterpe/ Mellifluous
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