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September 2006

Sam Rivers/Ben Street/Kresten Osgood
Violet Violets
Stunt

Every record Sam Rivers makes is attention-worthy. Each is another brushstroke in the painting of the masterpiece that is his career. Of course, not all strokes are created equal. A late-in-life release like this touches up a portrait mostly completed long ago. This trio’s follow-up to 2004’s Purple Violets is a compelling example of loosely organized, tune-based postbop/free jazz.

Like his contemporary and peer Sonny Rollins, Rivers has if anything become more spontaneous as an improviser over the years. Every shade of tonal color, every subdivision of the beat is fraught with contingency. His tenor and flute sounds are less muscular than they once were, yet the spark of linear inspiration is bright.

Drummer Osgood and bassist Street do a good job supporting Rivers. Both are able players, though there’s occasionally a palpable air of hesitancy in their combined approach. Rivers is the engine that makes the music go. Compared with his seminal recordings from the ’60 and ’70s, this CD is minor stuff. Indeed, to my ears it’s not as good as this group’s first album. As an attractive detail to Rivers’ accumulated body of work, however, it’s invaluable.

Originally published in September 2006
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