Saturday, February 19, 2005

New CD’s from Sam Rivers

Multi-instrumentalist (tenor and soprano saxophones along with flute and piano) and composer Sam Rivers has a couple of new CD’s out, one under his name called Purple Violets in a quartet format and then another disc sitting in with the Canadian progressive big band NOJO entitled City of Neighborhoods. Both of these discs are very interesting and continue to cement Rivers position as one of the foremost instrumentalists of American improvised music.

Purple Violets is a small band recording that offers a lot of space for improvisation on some of Rivers original compositions as well as improvised collaborations with the rest of the group and an inspired cover of Duke Ellington’s “The Mooche.” One interesting aspect of this recording is the use of the vibraphone replacing piano on some selections. This just gives the music a different feel and it’s the first time I can recall Rivers performing with vibraphone. It makes for a very pleasing combination. Overall, this reminds me somewhat of the Blue Note recordings he made during the mid-1960’s - it is challenging music, but with enough melodic content to keep mainstream fans from getting squeamish.

City of Neighborhoods is a different animal all together. NOJO is a little big band with 8-10 pieces and they hosted Rivers on a couple of tours of Canada during 2001 and 2003. The sound is a little bit different than what you would hear on Rivers recordings of his RivBea orchestra, with a little bit of funk and blues elements thrown in as well, especially on the wonderfully titled “The Human Blockhead” where Rivers gets to take a honkin’ R&B tenor saxophone solo.

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