JJ 04/83: Sam Rivers at the 100 Club, London

Forty years ago Barry McRae saw the avant-garde saxophonist in the famous Oxford St basement, supported by the Howard Riley Quartet. First published in Jazz Journal April 1983

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Sam Rivers

For his January date in London, Sam Rivers divided his set into four equal parts, one for each soprano, tenor, piano and flute, and that was the only aspect of his act that was predictable. He played ‘free’ with his usual logical build-up, telling chromatic anecdotes and stringing them across well organised bass lines from Santi di Briano and loose riding drum patterns from Steve McCraven.

On soprano he opened with a free cadenza and gave us his most linear work of the night. On tenor he introduced an element of bombast and, although he rode the beat a little harder, there were no harmonic restrictions, and his most abandoned playing came during the unaccompanied section of this piece

On piano he did not exhibit quite the same creative impetus, but on flute he achieved the most impressive counterpoint with his colleagues. The mood was slightly distant but he handled the exoticism of this selection with obvious restraint.

The support band was the Howard Riley Quartet and the leader’s fine piano assault was aided by some big-toned dexterity from bassist Paul Rogers and some urgent drumming from Nigel Morris. Larry Stabbins was perhaps less organised in the band parts but he fashioned a splendid free solo part that called to mind the David Murray walkabouts.