VOTE NOW FOR THE BEST OF ORLANDO® 2021!

Sam Rivers reunion show speaks to the late legend's massive impact. 

Sam Rivers
Reunion: Live in New York
★★★★★
(Pi Recordings)

It would be easy to let admiration of this album be rooted solely in hometown boosterism or belated mourning. So, let's not do that. Let's talk about why this album – the first Sam Rivers recordings to be released since his death in December 2011 – is essential listening. This incarnation of the Sam Rivers Trio – with Rivers on sax, flute and piano, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Barry Altschul – was born in the groundbreaking "loft jazz" community that Rivers fostered in 1970s New York, a scene that emphasized improvisation coupled with high levels of musicianship. While European free-jazz of the same era seemed resolute in completely rewriting the vocabulary of improvised music, this crew (predominately New Yorkers and Chicagoans with direct lineage to those cities' historical contributions to jazz) were looking for a way to speak a new language using familiar words.

This scene was, in short, Sam Rivers' greatest legacy.

Of the many artists who made their way through Rivers' loft – David Murray, Andrew Cyrille, David Ware, Oliver Lake, Maurice McIntyre – it was this trio that best exemplified its ethos: unfiltered, unbounded musical dialogue as deeply rooted in freedom as it was in skill. Sadly, when the trio was active between 1972 and 1978, it was not very well-documented. This reunion concert, which took place in New York in 2007, neatly rectifies that problem. The 90 minutes of music here (all improvised) vibrate with an intensity, freedom and unspoken connection that recollects the loft scene's '70s glory without explicitly referencing it. The recording quality is unimpeachable, but what is far more interesting is how these players' approaches to music have evolved over three decades without losing their essential magic.

Orlando residents familiar with Sam Rivers were treated to frequent "rehearsal" performances by the Rivbea Orchestra at Will's Pub, and to a person, were uniformly blown away by them. Less frequent, though, were sets by a Rivers-led trio, where Sam played the role of improvisational instigator. And although the Orlando trio sets were done with high-caliber musicians who explored some magical territory, hearing the original three back together – if only for one last time – is a beautiful gift.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at feedback@orlandoweekly.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

May 12, 2021

View more issues

Calendar

© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation