Best Unearthed Gem of 2019 - New York City Jazz Record
Best album of 2019 - Derek Taylor - Dusted
Best historical release - Patrick Friscoi - 14th Annual Jazz Critics Poll: 2019
Best historical release - Andrey Henkin - 14th Annual Jazz Critics Poll: 2019
Best historical release - Larry Blumenfeld - 14th Annual Jazz Critics Poll: 2019
Sam Rivers was a living dynamo across his eighty-eight years on the planet. One of the predictable accompanying injustices of all that activity that his commercially released discography only partially reflected that vibrant prolificacy. If left to the vagaries and biases of record labels that might have been the whole story. Fortunately, in typical self-deterministic fashion Rivers took it upon himself to document much of his work. The result was a tape trove from which the source recording for Zenith originates. Second in a projected eight-volume series produced by archivist Ed Hazell and label owner Danas Mikailionis, it brings into circulation an appealing and action-packed vintage German concert hit by an amalgam of several of Rivers’ most satisfying ensembles.
Bassist Dave Holland and drummer Barry Altschul were colleagues of Rivers going back to the former’s pivotal album project for ECM, Conference of the Birds. Tubaist Joe Daley was a more recent associate playing and touring with a succession of Rivers’ ensembles. Augmenting Altschul on a second kit, veteran drummer Charlie Persip made the band a quintet. A single unindexed improvisation, “Universal Message” follows Rivers’ usual framework of episodic segments sequenced around his four primary instruments: tenor saxophone, flute, piano and soprano saxophone. Sections for the other players are threaded in as well with Daley hefting euphonium and the tandem of Altschul and Persip engaging in a dynamic duet prior to a soprano coda from Rivers.
For a nearly thirty-three-year-old tape, the recording is both clear and crisp with solid spatial depth and balance between the players. Rivers starts on tenor, blowing gutsy and loquacious against the rhythmic crosscurrents of his colleagues for seventeen vibrantly paced minutes. A switch to flute also signals a downshift by Holland into funk, with the leader peppering fluttering spirals with vocalized shouts. Rivers was never reticent about involving his voice in the instrumental palate and here as elsewhere his exhortations aren’t frivolous bombast but rather another means of unbridled expression. Holland’s swap to amplified cello exposes another avenue of tone color further enhanced by the sustained splash and crash of adjacent drum sets. The audience is largely silent rapt throughout, a complimentary reflection of the band’s concerted ability to keep eyes and ears absorbed en mass.
Sam Rivers - tenor and soprano saxophones, flute, piano
Joe Daley - tuba, euphonium
Dave Holland - bass, cello
Barry Altschul - drums
Charlie Persip - drums
Recorded 6th November, 1977 in Berlin, Germany
Re-mastered by Arūnas Zujus at MAMAstudios
Design by Jeff DiPerna
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