Monday, December 02, 2019

Sam Rivers Quintet - Zenith (NoBusiness Records, 2019)

This is the second release in NoBusiness Records series of archival recordings by the great multi-instrumentalist, composer and improviser Sam Rivers, the recording having been made in Berlin, Germany in November of 1977 with Rivers in the company of Joe Daley on tuba and euphonium, Dave Holland on bass and cello and Barry Altschul and Charlie Persip on drums. The music is uniformly excellent as they perform a continuous fifty-three minute collective improvisation called "Universal Message" with Rivers cycling through his instruments in nearly equal measures, creating a suite that where he moves from tenor saxophone to flute and finally to a mix of piano and soprano saxophone. The sound of the album is clear and transparent, allowing you hear all of the instruments, opening with River's raw tenor amid the bass, tuba and drumming creating a unique and fascinating soundscape. They build a caustic and exciting free improvisation with many layers that can be explored, with the drummers combining to create interesting rhythmic patterns and textures that push Rivers' saxophone into even higher realms as the music becoming witheringly intense at times. There is a brief abstract period for percussion and longer tones of sound, bass and tuba melding like molten liquid, and Holland taking a very impressive solo. Rivers moves to flute, beginning in a subtle manner with brushed percussion and Holland's thick bass for support, with the music gradually gathering steam, building to an inspired improvisation, the musicians playing at a breakneck speed without missing a beat. The sound of flute amid tuba, buoyant bass and double drums is daring and Rivers breaks into vocals exhortations that frame the visceral nature of this music. Holland uses his bow effectively engaging Rivers flute in a way that changes the nature of the music, allowing it to follow a different path, one that is quite melodic and beautiful. After an interlude of applause, Rivers moves to piano, beginning unaccompanied, developing his own percussive concept, as the band falls in beside him. He plays freely around Holland's stoic bass and the skittish drumming, creating a powerful atmosphere. The tuba takes flight for a very well articulated solo backed with rich bass and drummers playing cymbals along with spare piano chords, Daley has a lovely tone on the instrument, and is rewarded with applause from the audience. Rivers moves to soprano saxophone as the concert nears its conclusion, playing with sleek elegance, meeting urgent bass and drums with sharp peals of sound. The music undulates like a tempest as the drummers trade ideas in a titanic duet, with the band coming together for one final glorious sprint to the finish, ending this fantastic album with an excellent flourish. Zenith - NoBusiness Records

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