Sam Rivers, the octogenarian multi-instrumentalist and composer, has always been just outside the kind of mainstream attention that would have made him a jazz superstar. He played tenor in the Miles Davis quintet, but managed to officially only record on one album. He worked with Dizzy Gillespie, Cecil Taylor and McCoy Tyner, but seldom showed up on their recordings. With his late wife Beatrice (for whom one of jazz’s best compositions was named), Rivers opened Studio Rivbea in Manhattan in the early 1970s, and served as a mentor to generations of younger musicians. Relocated to Orlando, Florida, since 1990, Rivers continues to compose, arrange and perform.
Colours, recorded in Milan in 1982 with his group Winds of Manhattan, is demanding, occasionally discordant, sometimes dense, sometimes austere and rhythmically idiosyncratic. There is simply no “easy” way to listen to it. This is jazz meticulously arranged for an ensemble with no drummer, no bassist, no brass and no keyboard or guitar player. The entire sonic range consists of eleven saxophones and/or flutes. “Lilacs” starts with everyone playing the theme in unison. It sounds like a bop chart, but without a rhythm section, the piece gets totally recast. Rivers burns on tenor as the band vamps behind him. The title track presents a slowly shifting melodic line, while long-tone chords hold the harmony in suspension. “Spiral” has a twisting line, one repeated phrase chasing the previous one. It’s busy, but every line is lucid. Double solos run through the piece. They’re tough to separate, but with players like Steve Coleman and Bobby Watson, all are good. “Matrix” alternates staccato bursts — baritones with baritones, sopranos with sopranos, tenors with tenors — with rich harmonic tapestry. Rivers brings out his distinctive flute playing for “Revival.” “Blossom" ends the album on an ambitious note. Without solos, lengthy and challenging, it features a rush of flutes, rhythmically restless unison phrases and the intriguing use of counterpoint. It is a most impressive piece of composing and arranging. (Charles Farrell)
(Original Vinyl LP also available)
|Display Artist||Sam Rivers Winds Of Manhattan|
|Release date||Dec 27, 1983|
|Product type||full album|