All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

13

Sam Rivers: Contrasts

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
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 on Dave Holland's classic 1973 ECM recording, Conference of the Birds. In the years between these two recordings, the pair continued to work together in a number of formats, most notably as the duo responsible for Sam Rivers/Dave Holland Vol. 1 (I.A.I., 1976) and Vol. 2 (I.A.I., 1977), and in a trio with drummer Barry Altschul on Sizzle (Impulse!, 1976) and Paragon (Fluid, 1977). But it was with Waves (Tomato, 1979), that the seeds of Contrasts were born, as Rivers and Holland were joined by drummer/percussionist Thurman Barker, a similarly avant-reaching member of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM).

But while the similarly chord-less Waves teamed Rivers with Joe Daley, an outstanding tubaist who would go onto record with everyone from Carla Bley to Dave Douglas, Contrasts' quartet is rounded out with trombonist George Lewis, another AACMer. Rivers takes a more eclectic approach that, when it swings, swings hard: "Zip" features a particularly staggering drum solo that raises the question as to why Barker's not better known, while "Lines" is a stellar piece of heated free bop held down by the unshakable Holland, who— while allowing Barker greater freedom to move freely (and effortlessly) between time and texture—still manages to take a break from anchoring the tune to deliver a mind-blowing solo that combines rapid-fire linear virtuosity with the occasional punctuating double stops.

The real freedom of Contrasts—its totally translucent soundstage making it the best sounding album of Rivers' career—is that it allows Rivers the latitude to do anything, go anywhere. Beyond the two swing tunes, the darker, more avant-tinged "Solace" features Barker on marimba, Holland con arco and the combined force of Rivers and Lewis, who shift restlessly between out-of-the-ether melodies and extended techniques—in particularly the growling, blatting and overall timbre-rich trombonist. The flute-driven "Verve" grooves amiably, before a series of solos lead to a breakdown in time, with Lewis and Rivers once again orbiting around each other, while "Dazzle" is the set's most incendiary track, taken at a fiery pace and setting the context for Rivers' most impressive solo, weaving visceral screams and dramatic ululations with deft, unfettered yet still thematic constructs.

A rediscovered classic, the re-release of Contrasts in multiple formats brings attention to a largely overlooked album that stands as a singular entry in the now-deceased Rivers' catalog. Demonstrating that true freedom means everything is permitted, its eclectic program also demonstrates just how much better a great recording can be, when given ECM's attention to sound and detail.

Track Listing: Circles; Zip; Solace; Verve; Dazzle; Images; Lines.

Personnel: Sam Rivers: soprano and tenor saxophones, flute; George Lewis: trombone; Dave Holland: double bass; Thurman Barker: drums, marimba.

Title: Contrasts | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: ECM Records

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Contrasts

Contrasts

ECM Records
2014

buy
 

Violet Violets

Stunt Records/Sundance Music
2006

buy
Violet Violets

Violet Violets

Stunt Records/Sundance Music
2005

buy

Related Articles

Read Northern Migrations CD/LP/Track Review
Northern Migrations
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 22, 2018
Read Egregore CD/LP/Track Review
Egregore
by John Eyles
Published: April 22, 2018
Read Lifelike CD/LP/Track Review
Lifelike
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: April 22, 2018
Read Whatever Possessed Me CD/LP/Track Review
Whatever Possessed Me
by Don Phipps
Published: April 22, 2018
Read Live At The Fillmore East 1968 CD/LP/Track Review
Live At The Fillmore East 1968
by Doug Collette
Published: April 22, 2018
Read Live CD/LP/Track Review
Live
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: April 21, 2018
Read "Spiritual Impressions" CD/LP/Track Review Spiritual Impressions
by Jerome Wilson
Published: March 16, 2018
Read "Promethean" CD/LP/Track Review Promethean
by David A. Orthmann
Published: July 3, 2017
Read "Rediscovered Ellington" CD/LP/Track Review Rediscovered Ellington
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 20, 2017
Read "Second City" CD/LP/Track Review Second City
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 9, 2017
Read "Soul Trio" CD/LP/Track Review Soul Trio
by Anthony Shaw
Published: August 24, 2017
Read "Then and Now" CD/LP/Track Review Then and Now
by Duncan Heining
Published: May 2, 2017