This live release is quite something for Rivers' fans. The music on both sets is wholly improvised-nothing was rehearsed beforehand. For those who've heard Dave Holland's "Conference of the Birds" (a classic of it's kind), this is vaguely similar. Holland's album, with Rivers, Altschul, and Anthony Braxton (making it a quartet), was recorded very early in the life of what would become this fine trio. The sound is very good-clean, crisp, and open. There's no harshness in the high end, or muddiness in the low end. The discs slip inside pockets of a tri-fold cardboard holder. There's a fairly good essay on Rivers' music and this concert printed inside the holder, along with track information.
Each disc represents a continuous (think along the lines of the Grateful Dead segueing from one tune to the next with no breaks between sings), complete set. The timings for each track are there only as a guide-compositions don't begin and end-rather each tune flows into the next. Rivers is heard on tenor/soprano sax/flute/piano. Minus Altschul, this is reminiscent of the two volumes Rivers released of duets between himself and Holland ("Dave Holland Sam Rivers Vol 1", and "Sam Rivers and Dave Holland Vol 2"), which have been difficult to find. If you see them, pick them up-they're prime Rivers and Holland, playing at a very high level of musicianship.
Some will hear this new release as avant garde, free jazz, or outside jazz. But it's much more than that. Rivers considers free form music as something played with no preconceived ideas, as opposed to "noise". And there is a difference if you're ears are tuned that way. If not-to each his own. The trio originally played together during the hey-day of the loft-jazz scene in the 1970's. Rivers has recorded in a number of small groups-including trios-over the years, but few (if any) have risen to the level of these three players together. His albums for the Blue Note label (especially "Fuchsia Swing"), and others like "Vista", "Celebration", "Summit Conference", and "Cerebral Caverns", are good examples of Rivers' playing. Also check out his work with a large band, "Inspiration" and "Culmination", and a hard to find live album by this group, as good examples of Rivers' later period work in a big band setting.
Also worth checking out is the 1992 album "Stablemates", by the band Roots. Rivers is one of the horns, along with Arthur Blythe, Nathan Davis, Chico Freeman, Don Pullen, Idris Muhammad, and others. While this isn't a showcase for Rivers, the music is very good-straight ahead jazz with just a touch of post modern be-bop. Each composition is in homage to a jazz artist-Oliver nelson, Archie Shepp, Eric Dolphy, Benny Golson, and several others. Very nice indeed.
The music from this 2007 concert ranges from dissonance to quieter passages, to something approaching an almost discernible melodic pattern. Nothing is taken for granted-all three players are constantly pushing the music (and each other), while thinking just ahead of what they're playing in the moment. The music is in constant flux, and the constant changing of tones and colors makes for some fine improvised music. Highlights? They're spread all through each "part" on both sets. But listen to "Part 1" (for instance) from the second set for a good example of what this trio is all about.
This set can sit with other fine albums by Rivers-no matter if it's a duo, trio, or large ensemble. The music this trio has created is a seamless blend of each musician into something much greater than each individual. Altschul's drum and percussion work adds another dimension to the trio's sound. Holland's bass-whether he's plucking the strings or using a bow is the perfect compliment to Rivers' playing-no matter which instrument he's playing. And even at this stage of life, Rivers was still capable (both mentally and physically) of creating different moods with either his flowing style on sax, his somewhat ethereal flute work, or his more percussive piano style. He can also still play with pinpoint accuracy when needed. This isn't someone past his prime coasting on a past reputation.
With Rivers' passing, another important musician/composer is now gone-removing us another step away from that important period of jazz from the 60's/70's. Rivers helped open up the possibilities of what jazz was and could be. His music was never "popular" like other jazz artists, but that doesn't matter. His music was like a breath of fresh air blowing across the jazz landscape. And it's concerts like this that are reminders of what he was capable of. "Tell them what they missed". Sam Rivers. Quote on the back of the album.
on September 27, 2012
I love the music of Sam Rivers and when I saw this up for release I put my pre-order in immediately. This is wonderfully recorded! It is as dynamic, flowing, exciting, beautiful, engaging, thrilling, captivating as any Sam Rivers release ever. Holland plays his brains out with amazing mind-meld attunement with Rivers - like they had just played for months together. Same for Altschul. Solos are brief. At no time are they coasting or just making a bunch of noise like some reunions can be -they are in it like they have everything to prove and nothing to lose yet it emerges as a cohesive statement fueled by their creative logic and empathetic souls. Special people at a peak special moment.
on December 16, 2012
SAM RIVER passed away the last 26 of december of 2011. This is an incredible document. Is a double CD recorded in 2007 but now sounded better than ever. In trio with Dave Holland and Barry Altschul you can hear the future of the jazz and also the past. Yes is "free" jazz, but now, is only JAZZ. There is no solos or something similar but you can feel the music in every notes. Holland and Atschull are greats and Rivers, like always like a complete master. Is no very difficult to hear if you want to hear it. Is intensive and full of memories . Is a lesson, probably the last one but you never forget this document. Try to hear it, try to understand the feeling. If you got it is a new experience. There is no "songs", like always, but there is one unforgetible double session. Sam Rivers forever. Is the perfect album for the beginners. Sam Rivers, Holland and Altschul are par of the history but also are the present and the future of this kind of music. Long live to Sam Rivers, he always live in the future of the jazz, this album is the perfect example.
on January 16, 2013
Sam Rivers may not have been the flaming comet Charlie Parker was, but he certainly helped carry the jazz tradition to a beautifully mellifluous cacophony. This album is a testament to a significant portion of his life's work and an outstanding performance of Free Jazz improvisation. For those with ears, you know whereof I speak. If you want to hear from a master what the art of collective, spontaneous music is really all about, take these discs for a spin. It's all in the love. The other two guys aren't too bad either.