Recorded at the same session as last year’s Inspiration, the follow up disc Culmination delivers more of the same goods. Sam Rivers, long exiled (by choice) to Orlando, FL, has been making music in semi-obscurity for the past few decades with many of the Disney-based musicians. In this environs Rivers has total control over composition and arrangements, plus a supply of very talented but probably bored musicians. His 1996 trio recording Concept for the Rivbea is worth searching for.
Recently, with the reissue of his Blue Note discs by Mosaic Records and at the urging of saxophonist Steve Coleman, the onetime sideman to Miles Davis is getting more attention. These two orchestra recordings are his first for a major label in close to twenty years. Rivers has been very busy while we were away, writing, rehearsing, and preparing for this ambitious return. The compositions he wrote for the 17-piece orchestra were originally prepared for extended soloing and would have clocked out at 50plus minutes each. But with recording budgets what they are, and truthfully with the modern attention span shortened to 30 second NIKE commercial length, his six-to thirteen-minute big band songs are wondrous treats. By shortening the solos and compacting the arrangements he seems to be bringing ‘pop’ hits back to the jazz orchestra. Produced by Steve Coleman, the music is flavored by M-BASE jazz, a funky take on odd meters and modern street music. With a cast of former M-BASE musicians, Coleman, Greg Osby, Gary Thomas, and Ralph Alessi plus the likes of Hamiet Bluiett, Chico Freeman, and Ray Anderson, Sam Rivers was sure to have a very modern sound. Rivers writes quick changes and complex parts. With any luck we will hear more from this unique genius, maybe a live date, or perhaps a box set of extended concepts.
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