Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sam Rivers Quartet - Lazuli

Recordings for Rivers were sporadic at best in the '80s, so this disc is a welcome addition to his discography. Electric guitarist Darryll Thompson, electric bass guitarist Rael Wesley Grant, and drummer Steve McCraven form a very capable and powerful rhythm section, contemporary and traditional, supportive and commanding in their own way. For the first half of this CD, Rivers alternates tracks between flute and soprano sax. The opener "Swirl" is the gem of the set, an ultra-funky number with a bass/guitar ostinato line setting up the cut-loose flute of Rivers. Also with flute is the bluesy funk and more prevalent Thompson on the title cut and the funky kids melody on the "Hollywood Swingers"-type bottom line of "Coral." The piquant, pungently sharp soprano of Rivers is featured on the funky calypso rocker to hard swinger "Dominant," the kinetic funk of "Chant," and the basic "Lapis." The remainder of the selections have Rivers on tenor sax where he cements the notion that he is as solid a player on that instrument as anyone out there today. The easy swingers "Ripples" and "Desire" are thoughtful or have boppish guitar, respectively, the former potentially a new standard. "Dandelions" is a soul calypso, while "Devotion" is a distinct "Body & Soul"-styled ballad. "Sprung" sports a choppy stop-start head and inserts in a hard-charging bridge, while his famous signature standard "Beatrice" is played neat and clean with McCraven, who is excellent throughout no matter the rhythm, brushing his way in a rock beat toward essentially urgent proportions.


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