Monday, August 15, 2022

Sam Rivers Trio - Caldera (NoBusiness Records, 2022)

The great multi-instrumentalist and composer Sam Rivers led a steady orchestra and trio out of Orlando for the last several decades of his life. He was amazingly prolific, recording in settings from solo to big band and touring the world. This concert comes from New Orleans in 2002 with the trio, Rivers on tenor and soprano saxophone, flute and piano, Doug Matthews on electric and acoustic basses and bass clarinet and Anthony Cole on drums, tenor saxophone and piano. It's their ability to each play multiple instruments that keeps the music continually fresh and forward looking. The music is all of one piece, encompassing both collectively improvised sections and composed sections, including Rivers's most famous song "Beatrice," dedicated to his longtime wife. The concert begins in an interesting way, with Rivers and Tidd playing piano and Matthews adding bass, both bowed and plucked. The band is always searching for the sound of surprise, as the keyboards clash and crash, but also intertwine into remarkable meshes, dark pummeling moving to brighter boppish phrasing. The music turns to a lengthy lowdown bowed bass introduction, which then incorporating two saxophones, sounding yearning and stark. Soprano and tenor saxophones flutter about like butterflies, becoming a little more raucous and free in space, egging one another on. The tenor saxophone, with bass and drums developing a spacious opening, building a subtle and finely graded improvisation that suits them well. Cole ups the ante with a drum solo, loud dynamite drumming, with Sam hooting encouragement, then turning to his flute, aided by complex percussion and buoyant bass. The music is always in motion, frequently thrilling, adding a touch if funk from the electric bass and drums. Deeply rhythmic drums and exotic sounding soprano emerge, Rivers pulls a great tart sound from the instrument, as heady bass and drums keep pace. The trio develops a lengthy improvisation, very well played. To wrap up the performance Rivers takes a long solo piano turn, with the bass and drums crashing in after several minutes and drive the music forward, Cole uncorks another rampaging drum solo, and Rivers rotates back to tenor saxophone, playing with boundless energy, to round things out. The performance on this album is very strong, and the sound has been remastered well,  with an informative liner essay from Ed Hazell and and period photographs completing the package. Caldera - NoBusiness Records

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