Mosaic Select: Sam Rivers & The Rivbea Orch.-Trilogy(MS-038)

Mosaic Select


Mosaic Select: Sam Rivers & The Rivbea Orch.-Trilogy(MS-038)

"The three CDs in this package show those of us who live outside central Florida some of what we’ve been missing. The mature RivBea Orchestra is a whambam big band with a thoroughly modern sensibility, but also deep roots in Sam’s music." - Kevin Whitehead, liner notes
Limited Edition: 5,000 copies

3 CDs -  $44.00


By the time Sam Rivers was able to document his orchestral writing in 1974 (on the Impulse album "Crystals") at the tender age of 51, he was best known for leading a magnificent, purely improvised trio devoid of all written music. But composition was (and is) as much a part of his incessantly fertile mind as improvisation.

His densely-layered and beautifully voiced multi-sectional orchestra pieces burn with an intensity that never forsakes the music's beauty. Rivers seamlessly integrates improvisation into the written score. Solos are distributed democratically as effective, concise statements.

In 1992, Rivers moved to Orlando, Florida where he quickly formed another powerful improvising trio and set about seeking personnel to form an orchestra for the music that he was constantly writing. After two all-star albums for RCA Records in 1998 ("Inspiration" and "Culmination"), recorded in New York, an Orlando edition of the Rivbea Orchestra started to emerge.

Drawn from teachers and students at surrounding colleges, frustrated members of various Walt Disney World aggregations and retired veterans of orchestras like Tommy Dorsey and Woody Herman, Sam Rivers crafted a first-class orchestra to realize his music. In 2005, he issued the new Rivbea Orchestra's first recording "Airora" on his own Rivbea label.

When we heard the album, we called Sam to offer our jaw-dropping praise, he told us essentially there is plenty more where that came from and set about sifting through hours of studio and live recordings to cull the three CDs of previously unreleased material contained in this set. The results are forward-thinking and electrifying.


"Anthony Braxton used to point out how multi-vectored, multi-layered music would prepare us for the very kind of world we're living in now, when information streams from multiple devices bombard before we're out of bed. Heard from that perspective, the music of Sam Rivers' RivBea Orchestra is a mirror of modern urban life. There are towering edifices on all sides, and a teeming population thriving within and between.

The thick lines and masses of sound Rivers writes for the orchestra of 14 horns and two rhythm are imposingly complex, and his creative orchestra music doesn't sound like anyone else's: not Sun Ra's, or Braxton's, or Julius Hemphill's. But there are some parallels: to Muhal Richard Abrams's large ensembles that embrace vernaculars from 1920s jazz to atonal concert music, mixing the familiar and novel; to circa-1970 Woody Herman, deploying funk and rock beats on Temptations and Doors tunes; to James Brown's static-harmony horns-and-rhythm funk.

The RivBea Orchestra transcends notions of the traditional and the avant-garde; it's bracingly dissonant, but all about forms and variations. For all Rivers' idiosyncrasies, big band conventions abound: 4 and 8-bar blocks, brass punches, motifs volleyed between horn sections, focused solos, and heart-quickening excitement." - Kevin Whitehead, liner notes

Read More About Sam Rivers:
Track Listing, Personnel & Recording Dates »

“I don’t know how to explain it, but at 87, I have greater musical powers than I did when I was 21. These days all I do is practice and write. That’s as close to heaven as I can get, as a non-believer. There’s no such thing as retirement, anyway. Retirement? What is that? Who retires?” - Sam Rivers


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  Excellent Big Band Jazz
I don't know what that last reviewer was thinking. This isn't free jazz at all, in fact it's very well organized with lots of room for great quality soloing. It's nice to hear good, "outside the box" big band music. Highly enjoyable.
  Some creative music but...
"Free jazz" is still an experimental form. When it works it can be great. Unfortunately, more often than not it doesn't work and can sound like a bunch of kids playing around or a band warming up before a rehearsal. It's not so bad when you have a small group trying it, but with a big band the rough parts are multiplied. Along with a few sublime moments, this set contains a lot of noise.
  He'll be Missed
There has not been enough mention of Sam Rivers' passing in December of 2010 I think - he was a great jazz-man and will be greatly missed. The Wildflowers "loft jazz" stuff from the 70s via Rivbea Studios is among the best jazz ever recorded.
  Sam is where big band is at
I love Sam Rivers. His music has left an indelible imprint on my own musical sensibilities. That being said, in all due respect, this set is not the end and be all of Sams' music. What is lacking here, that was not lacking in Culmination and Revelation is the presence of soloists of the caliber of say, Greg Osby-men who could bring there own vision to the music as well as nail the charts. Think of the Trombone blast in "Bubbles"...These guys on these discs are not quite at that level. They do, however, get through the charts with grace and finesse and catch fire particularly on pieces such as Pulsar and Precipice, where they generate real excitement and heat (you can the appreciation in Sam’s voice at the end of some of the tracks). Their solo's also have a great momentum, but overall lack the poise and coherence of the masters that were on the RCA recordings. They do have their moments though-the alto player in particular gets there most of the time.. Not having the Cole/Matthews rhythm section, also drops the rating a notch-although the bass drum and Matthews (who is an animal both fierce and graceful by turns) are beautifully in sync. Cole's ears were broader and able to interact with the charts, bass player and the soloist at a higher and more “holistic” musical level. The writing, as always, can be no on else except Sam. No one writes like him. My only quibble is the static one key funk bass of most of the charts-no critique of Matthews here-it does get a little old in spite of the many beautiful overlays on top of it. The tributes to his family on disc two have a predictability to ensemble hits, much of the backgrounds are isorhythmic patterns that become cloying after awhile and the contrapuntal textures are much more streamlined and absent in these series of tributes, but there is a warmth and consideration to the foreground writing that is very appealing. The writing’s quality overall on all three discs is very, very good and any thing the great man writes is worthy of your time. Sam still sounds wonderful and it is fascinating to hear the accumulated wisdom of over 70 years of improvising. He is transcending his own cliches and is arriving at a new synthesis-a testament to the powers of the man and his incessant refusal to coast. Anyone else would be content to achieve even a slice of what Sam has achieved, but for him he has not stopped the search. Buy this set, there is no out there, except maybe Von Freeman and possibly Rollins who has there game wired as tightly and freshly, as well as brilliantly, as Sam Rivers.
  Oh my, this is good.
I have only recently gotten into Sam Rivers' big band music, picking up Inspiration and Culmination first, then going back to grab Crystals, and then finally Aurora, which I thought was the best of the bunch and unlikely to be topped. Well, this set does top that. The music is in the same vein as Aurora, but the live recordings have just that extra degree of excitement. And the sound is really quite spectacular. If you liked Aurora, this set is absolutely going to be mandatory for you.
  Big Band Blast!
I'm so glad I got this set! I had heard the RivBea big band on a radio broadcast from Chicago about 10 years ago and was startled by what I heard. Something definitely vital, unusual, groovin' going on. This set does not swing in the usual sense. Not one bar of swing beat to be found. It is syncopated, funky, 4/4 time with occasional latin undertones. Lots of call and response, dense harmonies. Think the late forties Gillespie band, Kenton on acid!? meets boogaloo Woody Herman!! Lots and lots of solos. I'll be digesting this for sometime to come. I predict it will have impact on the jazz scene! Take a chance on this! I think Miles would smile! BTW, no guitar.
  What will be on this set?
I am sure the music will be fabulous (I think Aurora is amazing, Sam's best orchestra release), but can you tell us specifically what is new and what has been previously released (and on what labels)? Thanks

Mosaic Select: Sam Rivers & The Rivbea Orch.-Trilogy(MS-038)
Mosaic Select: Sam Rivers & The Rivbea Orch.-Trilogy(MS-038)
Limited Edition: 5,000 copies
3 CDs - $44.00

Customer Reviews:

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