Here’s hoping you are having a fine holiday season. Last Monday Sam Rivers passed away. An amazingly engaged musician, from the ’70s to this decade he remained a musicians’ musician and father figure for many creative players. An uncompromising and challenging player, if you gave Sam the time, his music was very rewarding. I am including the NY Times obit below with a few added [notes + video links]. More valuable information about Sam is available at two of his webpages – myspace.com/rivbea and at rivbea.com.
Here’s an interesting video of Sam with “Roots” which included Chico Freeman [tenor], Arthur Blythe [alto], Nathan Davis[tenor], Don Pullen [piano]… Sam’s solo begins at 4:58, http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XU_eKFPsdaY
I look forward to exploring the ever expanding world of creative music with you in the year to come. Keep those ears BIG!
Larry Blood – Host of Out Front, Outback
Presenting jazz and extensions as a living art form, with tradition a byword for music moving into the future. A KUSP-FM featured program serving California’s Central Coast since 1983, airing Tuesdays from 9:30pm to midnight PST.
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OFOB playlists available at http://www.kusp.org/playlists/ofob/index.html
Listen to the most recent show via http://www.kusp.org/archive/102.html#
OFOB for 12/27/11: dedicated to Sam Rivers, Sept. 25, 1923 – December 26, 2011, rest in peace.
Sam Rivers- Fuchsia Swing Song- Fuchsia Swing Song- Blue Note
Sam Rivers- Dance of the Tripedal- Contours- Blue Note
Sam Rivers- I’ll Never Smile Again- A New Conception- Blue Note
Miles Davis- Walkin’- Live in Tokyo- CBS/Sony [Japan]
Anthony Williams- Extras- Spring- Blue Note
Bobby Hutcherson- Ghetto Lights- Dialogue- Blue Note
Dave Holland- Interception- Conference of the Birds- ECM
Sam Rivers/Dave Holland- Cascade- Sam Rivers/Dave Holland- Improvising Artists
Sam Rivers- Sprung- Concepts- Rivbea Sound Company
Fluid Motion with Sam Rivers- Poodle Science- Fluid Motion with Sam Rivers- isospin labs
Jason Moran- Foot Under Foot- Black Stars- Blue Note
Sam Rivers- Postlude- Crystals- Impulse
Sam Rivers Rivebea Allstar Orchestra- Vines- Inspiration- RCA Victor
Sam Rivers Rivebea Allstar Orchestra- Ripples- Culmination- RCA Victor
Sam Rivers Rivbea Allstar Orchestra- Beatrice- Inspiration- RCA Victor
NY Times obit follows:
Sam Rivers, an inexhaustibly creative saxophonist, flutist, bandleader and composer who cut his own decisive path through the jazz world, spearheading the 1970s loft scene in New York and later establishing a rugged outpost in Florida, died on Monday in Orlando, Fla. He was 88.
The cause was pneumonia, his daughter Monique Rivers Williams said.
With an approach to improvisation that was garrulous and uninhibited but firmly grounded in intellect and technique, Mr. Rivers was among the leading figures in the postwar jazz avant-garde. His sound on the tenor saxophone, his primary instrument, was distinctive: taut and throaty, slightly burred, dark-hued. He also had a recognizable voice on the soprano saxophone, flute and piano, and as a composer and arranger.
Music ran deep in his family. His grandfather Marshall W. Taylor published one of the first hymnals for black congregations after emancipation, “A Collection of Revival Hymns and Plantation Melodies,” in 1882. His mother, the former Lillian Taylor, was a pianist and choir director, and his father, Samuel Rivers, was a gospel singer. They were on tour with the Silvertone Quintet in El Reno, Okla., when Samuel Carthorne Rivers was born, on Sept. 25, 1923.
Growing up in Chicago and on the road, Mr. Rivers studied violin, piano and trombone. After his father had a debilitating accident in 1937, he moved with his mother to Little Rock, Ark., where he zeroed in on the tenor saxophone. Joining the Navy in the mid-’40s, he served for three years.
Mr. Rivers enrolled in the Boston Conservatory of Music in 1947 and later transferred to Boston University, where he majored in composition and briefly took up the viola and fell into the busy Boston jazz scene.
He made an important acquaintance in 1959: Tony Williams, a 13-year-old drummer who already sounded like an innovator. Together they delved into free improvisation, occasionally performing in museums alongside modernist and abstract paintings.
By 1964 Mr. Williams was working with the trumpeter Miles Davis and persuaded him to hire Mr. Rivers, who was with the bluesman T-Bone Walker at the time, for a summer tour. Mr. Rivers’s blustery playing with the Miles Davis Quintet, captured on the album “Miles in Tokyo,” suggested a provocative but imperfect fit. Wayne Shorter replaced him in the fall.
On a series of Blue Note recordings in the middle to late ’60s, beginning with Mr. Williams’s first album as a leader, “Life Time,” Mr. Rivers expressed his ideas more freely. He made four albums of his own for the label, the first of which “Fuchsia Swing Song,” with Mr. Williams, the pianist Jaki Byard and the bassist Ron Carter, another Miles Davis sideman is a landmark of experimental post-bop, with a free-flowing yet structurally sound style. “Beatrice,” a ballad from that album Mr. Rivers named after his wife, would become a jazz standard. [Also note fine recording dates headed up by Bobby Hutcherson + Andrew Hill].
Mr. Rivers pushed further toward abstraction in the late ’60s, moving to New York and working as a sideman with the uncompromising pianists Andrew Hill and Cecil Taylor [recordings with limited U.S. distribution were recorded as the live date "Nuits de la Fondation Maeght", vol. 1-3 for the French label Shandar which included the "Unit"- Cecil, Jimmy Lyons + Andrew Cyrille + Sam in July of '69].
In 1970 he and his wife Beatrice Rivers opened Studio Rivbea, a noncommercial performance space, in their loft on Bond Street in the East Village. It served as an avant-garde hub through the end of the decade, anchoring what would be known as the loft scene. [Douglas released five "Wildflowers" LPs which is considered an important documentation of the scene - collections of music recorded at Studio Rivbea by important established and developing creative artists like Henry Threadgill's Air, Jimmy Lyons, Oliver Lake, Julius Hemphill...]
The albums Mr. Rivers made for Impulse Records in the ’70s would further burnish his reputation in the avant-garde. After Studio Rivbea closed in 1979, Mr. Rivers continued to lead several groups, including a big band called the Rivbea Orchestra [check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oM055VFxDU for a rehearsal, and for the excitement of a resulting 2009 Rivbea orchestra performance try http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxK_ecLuhaE], a woodwind ensemble called Winds of Change and a virtuosic trio with the bassist Dave Holland and the drummer Barry Altschul. With the trio, Mr. Rivers often demonstrated his gift as a multi-instrumentalist, extemporizing fluidly on saxophone, piano and flute. [Note: missing from this article is mention of the fact that Sam recorded a number of excellent live trio dates which also included some other very sympatico players while doing extensive touring of Europe on labels which did not get much U.S. distribution like Horo, Fluid and Red.]
Mr. Rivers tacked toward more mainstream sensibilities from 1987 to 1991, when he worked extensively with an early influence, the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. While touring through Orlando with Gillespie in 1991, Mr. Rivers met some of the skilled musicians employed by the area’s theme parks, who persuaded him to move there and revive the Rivbea Orchestra. He lived most recently in nearby Apopka, Fla.
The music made by his band in the 1990s and beyond was as spirited and harmonically dense as anything in Mr. Rivers’s musical history. And the trio at its core Mr. Rivers, the bassist Doug Mathews and the drummer Anthony Cole also performed on its own, honing a dynamic versatility distinct from that of any other group in jazz.
Mr. Rivers’ late-career renaissance was confirmed by the critical response to “Inspiration” and “Culmination,” two albums he recorded for RCA in 1998 with a New York big band assembled by the alto saxophonist Steve Coleman. In 2000, Mr. Rivers led the Orlando iteration of the Rivbea Orchestra in a concert presented by Jazz at Lincoln Center. The next year he served as the fiery eminence on “Black Stars,” an acclaimed album by the 26-year-old pianist Jason Moran.
This year saw the release of “Sam Rivers and the Rivbea Orchestra Trilogy” (Mosaic), a three-CD set featuring recordings from 2008 and 2009. His last performance was in October in DeLand, Fla.
In 2006. the Vision Festival, a nonprofit New York event aesthetically indebted to the loft scene, honored Mr. Rivers with a Sam Rivers Day program featuring both his bands. The names of two of the bustling pieces performed were, appropriately, “Flair” and “Spunk.”