Sam Rivers – Contrasts LP

Sam Rivers-contrasts LP

Yet another superb album from the incredible Sam Rivers. This 1979 recording drafts the exceptional talents of Dave Holland on double-bass, Thurman Barker on drums & George Lewis on trombone serving seven sedulous, versatile & dynamic tracks encompassing cryptographic compositional pieces, roving free-form & Avant-Jazz.

As was often the case with Rivers, the prevailing mediums are convoluted, ornate Avant-Garde & phrenic, dextrous Jazz embellished with a generous tunica of uncompromising highly invigorating & erratic Free-Jazz effusion & improvisation. The overall congruence, interplay & splicing between these distinct parameters & styles is pulled-off with near perfect precision. Sam inhabited this formidable oxymoronic platform of being both a razor-sharp Jazz virtuoso whilst churning out cardinal cremation & ultra-acidulous convulsion, more than likely simultaneously. The unity & coparcenary here is quite staggering & it’s hard to imagine either polarities being repelled by this distinct unification of alternative dimensions.

What else to say about this superb album? The playing from all collaborating musicians is extraordinary & it’s teaming & convex with emotive, disciplined & multifarious material & performance. It’s also been recorded/produced to an immensely high standard/character by ECM. A slight reverb seems to have been administered throughout giving much of the album an after midnight aura, further provoked by the heavily atmospheric countenance of some of the more transcendental Avant-Garde tracks & their moods & instrumentation.

This album has been reissued fairly recently on LP & CD after decades in the vaults. It had otherwise, somewhat alarmingly, never been repressed or even had a CD edition produced & has remained out of print. This always used to rile, trouble & perplex me & the goons, especially as ECM are generally on-point at keeping the back-catalogue in print, this was a very digressive episode. So much of Rivers astonishing back-catalogue remains “unavailable” except for in official MP3 downloads for selected recordings or used vinyl originals from the crate-circuit. for a pioneer of such profound quality & vanguard pedigree this is calamitous & tragic. Bizarrely, even his Culmination & Inspiration albums with the Riverbea All-Star Orchestra on BMG/RCA-Victor are out of print despite extensive acclaim & even awards. I wonder if Sam’s fierce independence & advocation of total artistic autonomy along with more than anything his potentate status & actions with the New York Jazz Loft scene have contributed to any kind of suppression or blacklisting by the industry fraternities?! Any one that’s researched or heard the truly remarkable Wild Flowers 5 LP set, that covering just seven nights documents a staggeringly effulgent list of Free-Jazz savants all under the Riverbea roof. Having a musician, & one as formidable & veridical as Sam hosting these kind of ancephalous havens with such a scale of brilliant musicians just mingling & co-performing must have scared the fucking shit out of the CEO pen-pushers which may have had repercussions? Who knows!? At least this magnificent album is back in circulation


Rekd-1979 (released 1980)