Sam Rivers – Paragon LP

Sam Rivers - Paragon (1977)_ed

Dominion. We have here the deepest, furthest, lengthiest incision, reaming, projection, or what have you into one (perhaps multiple) of Off-Road Jazz’s facets/sectors ever recorded. Nobody has blazed such an psionic shockingly exigent & ambidextrously adept attempt/voyage/penetration into this vector of the wilderness (whatever vector that is)…NOBODY!

The 3 musicians gathered are indubitably three of Free Jazz’s most eminent panjandrums, in ability, conception & application. They are for me personally responsible for a considerable tranche of the most precious material & contributions, & their combined participation on this overwhelming opus is potentially the best from all 3.

This album/the majority of it’s material is astronomically astounding, unregulated ethereal excellencies exceeding unimaginable amazingnous… searing coruscations of glow in the fucking dark ultra magnificence manifolding & multiplying meticulously…it’s absolutely out of control, out of orbit, off the scales, beyond belief… +__+

to have such a good genre, concept & three such good musicians merging with such mastery is the indelible precipitation of legend, & this album contains material that literally blows me the fuck away every time I listen to it, I almost can’t believe what i’m hearing, paranormal communication & tetra-pronged zenith supra-meltdown(s).

It was always going to be something supernatural when these three came together under the free-jazz labarum, which thank-bloody-goodness they did many times (never enough though) in their own independent careers, all resulting in tumultuous freak-incidence of STUPEFYING refulgence (You Can’t Name Your Own Tune, Conference Of The Birds, Waves & Contrasts) but this occasion goes further than any & anything.

Lets start with what is definitely the most defining seizure of the album, the brain-malfunctionally outstanding “Ecstasy”, for me by far the greatest moment on this release. It also just happens to be one of the most remorselessly intense, cranial-fissuring highly flammable biblical-blizzard of retardedly insane distressingly over-emotive seven-barrelled multi shot full-auto triple-belt-fed hazardously rapid ferociously frantic FreeJazz shock waves, indiscriminately engulfing all obstacles in a continually ascending expansion of utter astaticism. Drawing out the indefinable in a protracted oblation of excruciating excellence. No one can move that fast through the crowded streets without a collision, but super-human faculties, years of peak-practice & overgrown-ideation inducement & intrepid-intentions…. Who in the florescent-fuck are these maaaad-men? What in Lamashtus name? bro. just think of the most hectic yet astonishingly precise ultra austere spacking Free-Jazz performed by ferocities finest. Should I break it down? I guess I should…

“Ecstasy” is not a Turbo-Swing track…it’s pure Off-Road/Tumble-Weed. from the percussive angle, mad-bad super drummer Altschul just decimates with his crazy rolls, collapsing-column fills & angled, odd-entry blind-spot fragmentation dalliance…incredible, endlessly inventive, ultra-tight, unpredictable & infallible…GOODNESS. He works a lot with increased pressure, forcing contrasting volumes out of his roll’s & fills & is often every-where at once & remains like everybody else totally recusant to any time-scope. The luminary don Sam Rivers just seers, the avatar of erraticism, it’s so over the top, so fast & graceful yet ferocious that I laugh, I literally laugh, the man is something else & I will always love him for pushing parameters further than anybody else in his own unflinchingly unique style & manner. He is on a Tenor here & just takes the madness almost further than my brain can grasp…it’s unreal! Totally’ totally unreal. Sam’s often this good but the difference on Ecstasy is that he truly has two other musicians that can adequately participate/compete (it’s not that other excellent musicians have not shown marvellous compatibility/performance with Rivers, but this elite Holland/Altschul trio is unmatched for it’s speed & gracility & so importantly they played a LOT together over years) & also that all the conventional Jazz which was so expertly integrated & contrasted in most of his work is excluded…this is pure Off-Road, Fuck Em’ Up with no lulls in the down-pour. Rivers is an incredible repository for fast, no-holds-barred extreme over-energetic Free-Jazz & I think one of the most consistent as he churned out bull’s-eye after bull’s-eye for over two decades & never really “calmed down”, a remarkable stint that few others can attest to. & then we have a Mr David Holland. Ha! Holland’s a real bad-arse right? Yeh this we know, but iyl tell ya, th guy out-does his already over-done reputation here. FUUUUUUUUUUCK!!!!!!! How off the scales can you go? Sorry, but this man is a monster, the meanest bass bleeeurk iyv ever’ ever heard & his palpitations seem to change & morph every few seconds. not so much an insane elaboration on one transit, it’s like he hops transit entirely every 2-5 seconds with some kind of 360 degree teleport, obviously whilst erupting another elaboration/pattern. You get attacked from different angles by a different weapon using a different style. Like some one possessed. It’s ridiculous, but the accuracy & constant micro inventiveness, repeatedly fashioning a tool then ditching it to make another out of thin-air, almost as if the first few seconds of invention & the essence of conception/inception is the only way/reason to relay/remonstrate or whatever you want to call such mad sound & energy. The track starts & concludes with a difficult syncopation, probably quite logical for a sax, more difficult for a bass (it’s replicated) & a really odd one for drums (no problems for Altschul though) but is otherwise a complete Free-Range scrum aside a fairly brief solo for firstly drums & then a more lengthy bass episode. Iym a bit so-so on solos, seems a bit gratuitous & I don’t see why you cant just do it with everybody else, most of them get in the way but these two are epic especially Holland who by this stage & in tandem with the epidemic & staggering temperatures of hysteria now that the song has reached fever pitch, gone beyond invocation & in2 a state of energumen & dances over his bass with such imagination speed & inflection that somebody better call the fire-brigade. I’m not in2 bass solos at all but I cant believe how ecstatic this passage is & how much improvisational ingenuity is exercised. Ecstasy does not ameliorate acceleration throughout…it’s 5.45 & theirs nowhere to hide from the perennial convulsives. As a “song” it works perfectly. I don’t really like the expression “perfect” but that seems the most auspicious analysis. The content is also pretty much perfect. It does not feel like anything should be abscised or added, it’s all there. That amongst all the hundreds of genres & tens of thousands of albums I have heard is something I rarely ever ascribe.

Moving away from Ecstasy the next best track on Paragon for me is “Rapture”. It’s a very similar affair but is not as psychotic & frenetic. Another sure shot though for certain. Right after Ecstasy there is a dreadful little Flot number with flute & cello called Bliss. Really vague, febrile & oblique repining. Personally I can’t stand this kind of stuff & at this standard it’s pretty much unheard of for Rivers who never offers such platitude. The following side has one long track, Paragon, with Sam on Piano Flute Tenor & Alto. Rivers is a very accomplished Piano player but I always prefer him on reeds. That aside the track seems pretty deflated & a bit random perhaps furnished by the strained relics of creative outburst after the session’s extraordinary exercise in intensity. Not terrible but I never really go back to it. But after Ecstasy it’s almost impossible, intagliated into the consciousness in massive intractable furrows. It’s a vent for communicating with another world…or rather having another world communicate with you. For sheer fire-ball frustrations, this is hard to match, a statement I find myself saying yet again about this extraordinary man, although the support & performance by the others involved can’t be iterated enough & the phenomenal powers they combine. This album, like much of Rivers albums, is unavailable/out of print. It’s never even been issued on CD! This is obviously a great pity (as is any quality exclusion), but it’s also one of the biggest perversions, injustices & infractions in Jazz history. For me Rivers takes a central roll that can be ignored by only the most idiotic & insensate. No one can fuck with his consistency, from the sixties to the 00’s he has left a corridor of incineration that so few can coordinate (Roscoe Mitchell for me is the only parallel candidate). I accept that obviously Rivers will be simply “too much” for a lot of people but his pseudo-obscurity & the expurgation of most of his back-catalogue are quite clearly keeping him from administering massive audio rapture & enriching many musicians with his insane accomplishments. it is frankly despicable & I would like to take this moment to say fuck you to the “Jazz Community” & all the labels for allowing this ignominious infraction to persist., Rivers is elite legend & it needs to be screamed from the tree-tops!

LABEL: Fluid

REKD: 1977


This album seems to be fairly accessible for hunters & mostly goes for a reasonable £10-£15. I kno that sealed & non-played copies are sold through Groove Yard (along with some other exceptional & hard to source Sam Rivers wax) in Oakland USA. Email Rick on