Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved reader experience across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

437

Sam Rivers: Contrasts

C. Andrew Hovan By

Sign in to view read count
As an icon of creative endeavors, the ECM label is world renown for its releases by such heavyweights as Dave Holland, Jan Garbarek, Keith Jarrett, and Jack DeJohnette, to name just a few. Probably much less acknowledged however are those little trinkets of musical pleasure that have fallen through the cracks over the years, several of which also happen to be unavailable on compact disc. In this latter category belongs one of the last major label releases that saxophonist Sam Rivers produced prior to his brief tenure with BMG in the late ‘90s. In a trio of dates ECM produced that featured major American jazz saxophonists (the other two albums being George Adams’ Sound Suggestions and Dewey Redman’s The Struggle Continues ), 1979’s Contrasts serves as a cornerstone among Rivers’ many works as well as a key item from the ECM catalog.

The antithesis of the label’s general inclination towards pastel shades, Rivers and crew paint in wide strokes of bold colors with an avant-garde flair very much in evidence. Rivers and trombonist George Lewis often engage in collective banter, tossing phrases back and forth at one another. Bassist Dave Holland not only holds down the bottom end but also contributes to the melodic fold by bowing his own lines that intertwine with the lead voices. Rendered across the full stereo spread by engineer Martin Wieland, drummer Thurman Barker becomes a full participant capable of thematic and melodic variants that go far beyond the role of just time keeping.

All seven of the pieces heard here are Rivers originals and each one boasts a one-word title that sums up the mood of performance. “Circles” opens up with some free collective improvisation, although things simmer on a low heat with Barker sticking to brushes throughout. A number like “Zip” recalls Rivers’ Blue Note years with its forceful swing, the tenor man getting into his own version of the archetypical “sheets of sound” approach. Somewhat more melancholy, “Solace” finds Barker switching to marimba, with Rivers’ soprano and Lewis’ trombone floating over an ethereal landscape. As an added treat, “Verve” offers a taste of Rivers on flute with a hybrid boogaloo beat that beams with sunny hues.

Although the overwhelming majority of items from their expansive catalog remain in print, ECM still has several items that have yet to make it to compact disc with Contrasts being at the top of this reviewer’s list. Coming off his series of remarkable, if erratic Impulse recordings from the ‘70s, this ECM date serves as a summation of Rivers’ virtues up to that point in time.

Track Listing: 1. Circles (Rivers)—4:10, 2. Zip (Rivers)—4:42, 3. Solace (Rivers)—6:54, 4. Verve (Rivers)—7:09, 5. Dazzle (Rivers)—9:12, 6. Images (Rivers)—3:48, 7. Lines (Rivers)—7:15.

Personnel: Dave Holland—Bass, George Lewis—Trombone, Sam Rivers—Flute, Sax (Soprano), Sax (Tenor), Thurman Barker—Drums, Marimba, George Leroy Lewis—Trombone.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Artie Butler: Have You Met Miss Jones? Jazz From The Vinyl Junkyard Artie Butler: Have You Met Miss Jones?
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: November 29, 2005
Read Moacir Santos: Maestro Jazz From The Vinyl Junkyard Moacir Santos: Maestro
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: May 31, 2005
Read Bobbi Humphrey: Flute-In Jazz From The Vinyl Junkyard Bobbi Humphrey: Flute-In
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: March 29, 2005
Read Ronnie Foster: On the Avenue & Cheshire Cat Jazz From The Vinyl Junkyard Ronnie Foster: On the Avenue & Cheshire Cat
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: February 24, 2005
Read Jazzy Soundtracks 4: Kean Jazz From The Vinyl Junkyard Jazzy Soundtracks 4: Kean
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: December 16, 2004
Read Jazzy Soundtracks 3: Kwamina Jazz From The Vinyl Junkyard Jazzy Soundtracks 3: Kwamina
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: November 15, 2004
Read "Jeff "Tain" Watts' Elvin Jones Alumni Band at Jazz Standard" In Pictures Jeff "Tain" Watts' Elvin Jones Alumni Band...
by Adrien H. Tillmann
Published: September 13, 2017
Read "Bray Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Bray Jazz Festival 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 9, 2017
Read "Jazz Karaoke anyone?" Highly Opinionated Jazz Karaoke anyone?
by David Hadley Ray
Published: August 3, 2017
Read "Gary Peacock Trio at the Jazz Standard" Live Reviews Gary Peacock Trio at the Jazz Standard
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: November 14, 2017
Read "Tim Motzer: Wandering the Depths of Space" Multiple Reviews Tim Motzer: Wandering the Depths of Space
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 22, 2017
Read "Los Angeles Guitar Quartet's European Debut of Pat Metheny Commission Highlights Uppsala International Guitar Festival" Live Reviews Los Angeles Guitar Quartet's European Debut of Pat...
by John Ephland
Published: November 1, 2017