Music

Sam Rivers / Dave Holland / Barry Altschul: Reunion: Live in New York

Even in death, the mighty Sam Rivers still holds an unparalleled command over the current jazz market.


Sam Rivers/Dave Holland/Barry Altschul

Reunion: Live in New York

Label: Pi
US Release Date: 2012-09-25
UK Release Date: 2012-09-24
Label website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Sam Rivers had the perfect last name. He made music that could flow endlessly with self-sufficient power, like rain that falls from the sky, fills an ocean, trickles through the continent, and empties into a gulf before returning to the ocean. Reviewing an album like Reunion: Live in New York is like reviewing an actual river. I would have to take notes on how the water moves around the rocks. Would I recommend this body of water to a friend and if so, why? Who the hell would want to read that? If you have most of your senses working, you know what a river sounds, looks, smells, feels (and...tastes?) like. You could discuss it scientifically, but then you would have to reevaluate your reasons for wading in the water, or picking up a Sam Rivers album, in the first place.

Saxophonist Sam Rivers, bassist Dave Holland, and drummer Barry Altschul had an unusual relationship. They were known for being such a great trio yet recorded evidence of their chemistry is few and far between. In fact, when you see the word Reunion in the title, it isn't a bunch of nostalgic bullcrap. It's 25 years of procrastination followed by a night of not playing the "hits". When Rivers, Holland and Altschul finally made time in their schedules to do this show at Columbia in 2007, they planned nothing. Nothing from Contours, nothing from Conference of the Birds, just eighty-plus minutes of improvisation. The music is divided into five tracks on the first CD and four tracks on the second, all of which are untitled. And as per jazz tradition, the recordings sat around for about five years and weren't released until after Rivers' death.

And when someone uses the word "free" in the context of Sam Rivers, it's not the crazy kind. It's the anything-is-possible kind. It's the do-what-you-feel-because-why-not? kind. The three musicians have a conversation, not a shouting match. The conversation is so smooth that you might not even notice that the star of the show plays four instruments. Rivers' transition from alto sax, to piano, to soprano sax to flute is so smooth that even I didn't notice. It wasn't until after the piano had been playing for a few minutes that I thought "wait, who is the piano player at this date?" Barry Altschul can probably do a month-long drum solo if someone met him. But the amount of restraint showed by the trio is something to behold. Their drop in dynamics and shift in mood happens with no grand gesture. It just happens in purest sense that improvised music will allow.

Though Rivers, Holland, Altschul, and Pi Recordings have put together one of the purest jazz albums of the year - all music, no pretensions - I feel like they cinched that title just by showing up. Bearers of the post-bop flame would gladly miss the birth of their first born if it meant seeing these three guys play together one more time. But we can't let all that legendary stuff get in our way. With Sam Rivers gone and David S. Ware's recent passing, we may see fewer albums like this in the future; ones that you put on and they just play for you. It's all energy and no fuss. I'm not saying there won't be artists who would do this down the road, but a certain chapter is coming to a close, just as it's designed to do.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Music

Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.