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Culled from the name of his well-known 1970’s New York City jazz loft “Studio Rivbea”, the esteemed saxophonist-composer Sam Rivers returns to the recording scene with the “Rivbea All-Star Orchestra”. Here, Rivers along with an ensemble of multi-talented modern jazz musicians of whom are probably half his age, perform several pieces which, as Rivers states..”Could easily last 50 minutes each”. Sam Rivers has often flirted with fame, which included a brief stint with Miles Davis yet mainly recognized for his cutting edge LPs on Blue Note Records and performance on Dave Holland’s classic “Conference Of The Birds” among other achievements. Also, during the New York City loft days, Rivers encouraged many ambitious jazz musicians who threw caution to the wind while capitalizing on the adventurous opportunities to explore and create, sans the major label dictation and marketing efforts.
On his much-anticipated debut for RCA, Rivers displays his considerable compositional and arranging skills in conjunction with his well documented and quite revered technical proficiencies. The first composition titled, “Vines” packs a mighty punch through punctually stated choruses from the huge horn section, complete with generous soloing interspersed within the arrangement. This piece is a vibrant, well coordinated although odd-metered swing. “Nebula” boasts a similar attack via the upfront horn section featuring melodic overtones and crisp rhythms. Here, the feisty soloing from various members of the orchestra enhance the somewhat bold, brash motifs.
With this recording, Rivers’ “brassy” big band production/arrangements at times rekindles thoughts of Dizzy Gillespie’s big band excursions as Gillespie’s legacy plays a major role within Rivers’ music, which is evident on the title cut, “Inspiration”. Referring to this piece in the liners, Rivers states...”Inspiration is based on the harmonic variations in the Dizzy Gillespie composition “Tanga”. Here, the big band emphasize the familiar theme yet incorporate a larger than life vibe while expounding upon the central motif. Rivers’ “Whirlwind” embarks on a triumphant sounding chorus over a hard-hitting funk-rock beat as the soloists continue to stretch out in exhilarating fashion. Rivers adds spice while utilizing the flute on “Rejuvenation” as alto saxophonist Steve Coleman contributes fleet-fingered phraseology along with Gary Thomas’ angular tenor sax solo while members of the brass section air it out!
Sam Rivers’ Inspiration comes from a man who has inspired so many others. Big band fanatics and modern jazz aficionados should enjoy the heck out of this one. A most gratifying and noteworthy effort from the venerable Sam Rivers and his modern jazz all-stars! * * * * 1/2
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.