Monday, September 25, 2023

A Loft, Aloft: Sam Rivers 100

Sam Rivers Quartet - encore improvisation

Another day, another huge birthday for another formative figure.

I love the centennials. Almost no one lives that long, but it's a great number at which to enumerate someone's contributions to the continuum.

When I figured out it was gonna be his 100th birthday this month, I just about collapsed to the floor in astonishment because I thought for sure he was 20 years younger.

That's because the sounds that came out of him were that far ahead of their time. In some ways, they still are.

Strangely, he's almost as famous for being in Miles Davis' band for one record as he is for his entire career output.

His playing was deemed by Miles to be too avant garde and out there, but as the 1960s progressed and Jazz became crazier and freer, he really found his voice, both as a player and a composer.

As the Sixties became the Seventies and Jazz was being subsumed by the more lucrative and popular Rock stuff, he began a movement in New York City that became something of a pinnacle for him.

Stuck for places to play, he created a concert venue in his NYC loft space that turned into an entire revolution, which came to be called Loft Jazz.

His place -- christened Studio Rivbea by combining his and his wife Beatrice's names -- became the vanguard spot for musicians of all stripes to play, and was soon joined by other venues with a similar ethos, helping keep Jazz alive in the fallow 1970s Rockscape.

As his career progressed he moved into more orchestral sounds, fusing improvisation with the notation and arranging skills that were his forte.

He passed in 2011 at the age of 88, and today he'd have celebrated his centenary b'day.

One of the most skillful, melodic and tuneful players of the Avant Garde, the music of Sam Rivers will always be a step or three ahead.

We'll honor this most seminal figure with 2 1/2 hours featuring one of his most powerful groups in full flight in his 1970s heyday.

Sam Rivers Quartet
Brescia 1978/Hamburg 1979

01 Tides (Maree) Suite
02 encore improvisation
03 Blossoms, Parts I & II

Total time: 2:26:57
disc break goes after Track 01

Sam Rivers - tenor and soprano saxophones, flute, piano (Track 03 only), vocals & percussion
Joe Daley - tuba & euphonium
Dave Holland - bass & cello
Thurman Barker - drums & percussion

Tracks 01-02: Supercinema, Brescia IT 10.31.1978 FM
remastered by EN, September 2023
Track 03: Studio 10   Grosser Sendesaal des NDR Funkhauses, Hamburg DE 5.15.1979 FM
the first part of the Hamburg performance is available officially here
849 MB FLAC/direct link

What's so striking about this music -- aside from the fact that it's played by galaxy-class guys like Dave Holland and Thurman Barker -- is how seamlessly it shifts from Free outbursts to gentle, almost chamber-esque vibes, and then to some funky strut out of 1920s New Orleans.

But then, that's what makes monster Maestro musos like Sam Rivers so tremendous, right? Their music contains almost the whole history of sound in one song, played continuously, without repetition, for a lifetime.--J.

9.25.1923 - 12.26.2011


  1. There is, some where in the sonic universe, a rendition of 'River's Invitation' by the 'Red-Rivers Band'. If you could find and share it, Allah Meherbaan. Once upon a time, I did have it on a cassette tape, but, 'Things Have Changed'.
    For all you do, Shukran.