Selling It


Sam Rivers
Impulse : 1976

SR, tenor sax, flute; Ted Dunbar, guitar; Dave Holland, bass, cello; Barry Altschul, drums; Warren Smith, drums, vibes, percussion.

The recent Sam Rivers Fest on New York’s WKCR, and the culminating concert featuring a reunion of his legendary 70s trio (with Holland and Altshcul), went a long way, one hopes, toward further elevating this wonderful reedman into the pantheon of greats. So in the spirit of celebrating one’s elders while they still walk amongst us, and can knowingly bask in the well-earned adoration and appreciation of their fans, we bring you a couple of under-known cuts from Rivers’ busy, mid-70s run of recordings. (Many thanks to listener/reader Bart for the rips.)

The Sizzle group has the classic trio at its core, rounded out by guitarist Dunbar and utility man Smith. Where on much of his other 70s recordings Rivers focused on building a cohesive statement, varying texture and tone across long song forms, here it’s all about the groove. Dunbar swivels his way through “Scud” like a latter-day Jimmy Nolen, while Rivers, on tenor, just burns, rarely letting up.

“Dawn” alters the tone if not the pacing, with a masterful turn on flute from Rivers, and able support from Smith on vibes, and Holland on cello (later electric bass). Gary Giddins, writing on Rivers and Sizzle in the Village Voice in 1998, commented that “clearly there are times he wants to be on the one,” and Altschul and Smith deliver the one in steady, syncopated fashion.

If Sizzle, ultimately, is not a major work in Rivers’ mighty oeuvre, it nonetheless reveals Rivers as someone with tremendous ears, wide open not only the waves and streams that course through jazz history, but also the scratch and burn of 70s funk. Probably not the meaning of “Scud” that Rivers implied, but no matter: here he drops the bomb on us.

Category Sam Rivers

8 Responses to Selling It

  1. The WKCR Sam Rivers extravaganza was marvelous. Hard to believe Rivers produced so much diverse music. It certainly kept me listening for long periods of time. Now if we could only get college radio DJs to be a bit snappier in getting back to the music.

    And Rick Lopezâ??s discography/gigography is also a gem.

    I loved these tracks. Samâ??s R&B background comes through in the grooves and the blowing. Playing the tracks on my iTunes they then segued into Donald Fagen; and you know it worked!

  2. Hey guys, thanks for posting the tracks, and for the informative blog. I didn’t realize Rivers had a reunion show with Altschul and Holland–would’ve loved to have seen that. I did see Rivers play an outstanding show in March at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg FL as part of the EMIT series ( By the way, Andrew Hill’s “Change” CD was re-released this week by Blue Note, which has 6 tracks that originally appeared on Rivers’ “Involution” album.

  3. yeah, this is still the real thing isn’t it – proof that the presence of a groove doesn’t just consign the recording to the dustbin as some might say! rivers just can’t help stuck in there no matter what the setting is, i don’t think he’s capable of playing anything sh*t if he tried…

    … just for the record i cannot get on with into somethin’ by larry young, though, and i only bought that for rivers… there’s not enough of him there to salvage it for me, he’d need to be playing every second for that… eek…

  4. Sam Rivers, in my humble opinion, is the greatest musician on the planet. I wasn’t aware of the Fest and am kicking myself for not knowing about it. I’ve been a Sam Rivers fan for the past thirty years and have a lot of his recordings. Back in February, 2003, my family and I had the privilege of attending a Sam Rivers concert at Wesleyan University. It was marvelous! It was a dream come true! Not only did we get to enjoy his compositions on tenor and soprano sax, piano and flute, but we also got to meet with him after the concert.

    I have a jazz program on WESU FM 88.1 at Wesleyan in Middletown CT and always fit in a Sam Rivers composition within my format. The man is a giant amoung the avante garde greats of jazz! He is right up there with John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Al Brignola, Ornette Coleman and Joe Henderson.

  5. Never heard of him. If it were a blindfold test, I’d guess Threadgill, although I’d say this guy plays better.

  6. Wrong thread.

  7. Great to have access to these tracks again. I got the album in about 1980 having seen it recommended in Teach Yourself Jazz by John Chilton (of all people)…

  8. SUMMER RE-UP: Pan-tones