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CD has 7 tracks.
For those who recall Inspiration, 1999's showcase for the densely layered big-band writing of Sam Rivers, the title of this disc tells the story. Culmination comprises seven tunes from the same 1998 session that produced Inspiration, again produced and mixed by saxophonist Steve Coleman, with the same all-star lineup--including saxists Greg Osby and Chico Freeman and trombonists Ray Anderson and Joseph Bowie. Culmination also draws from the same body of arrangements that the visionary Rivers has assembled since the late 1960s. So why does it sound brighter, less cluttered--more accessible--than its predecessor? It has to do with the pieces themselves. Inspiration dove further into the pools of complexity that nourish Rivers's imagination; as he explains, each of the CD's seven pieces runs about 50 minutes in performance, which forced him to edit them heavily for recording. But the compositions on Culmination are shorter by design and focus more on concise composition and compact solos. They appear at their intended lengths (ranging from six to thirteen-plus minutes) and tell their stories more cleanly and succinctly--reminding one how well Rivers has always balanced his wonderful abstractions with a straightforward lyricism, exemplified by his best-known composition, "Beatrice." The highlights of this album include the opening track, guaranteed to confuse those who bought the first album (being a barely altered version of that disc's opening track); "Bubbles," with Hamiet Bluiett's ebullient baritone taking the lead; and the title piece, the most enjoyable lesson in atonality you'll ever hear. Rivers, in his late 70s when he recorded these tunes, plays wizardly soprano and hurly-burly tenor solos throughout the disc, which offers an ideal introduction to his musical omniverse. --Neil Tesser
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Rivers was one of those cats only jazz people knew about, and he quietly worked in both avant-gaurde and funk for fifty years: actually, why am I using the past tense--the matero is alive and well, and making albums like Culmination.
This is the companion to Inspiration and covers the same terratory. Technically, this is avant funk, but as usual, genre labals seem to detract from describing this music instead of illumanating.
River's uses a big band here, but a band that grew up with Mahavishneu and Funkadelic, not Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker. They use electric basses, funky rythms, and play in time signatures the 1940s, 50s and 60s guys we love probably never even dreamed of. Technically, they are better players.
This is not different DNA, just a different era: these guys have absorbed rock and electric funk, have expendentially better technology, and more educational opportunites. They were born during or after the south intagrated. It is a different jazz because it is a different world.
Funky, thorney, complex, disciplined, and intimadating as hell, this is some of the best jazz of our era, any era. Ascention or Shape Of Things to come seems like nursery school when compared to the rigorus, razor sharp arrangements here. This is avant jazz, but with the most complicated compositions thinkable.
Listen to Blue Note, Listen to Impulse, but than listen to THIS!
the horn ensembles playing rhythmic choruses repeatedly gets to be a bit redundant, but the many solos make the recording. lots of energy.