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Sam Rivers/Dave Holland/Barry Altschul: Reunion: Live in New York

It wouldn’t have been fair to expect Sam Rivers, Dave Holland and Barry Altschul to recapture their old magic when they reunited in 2007 for the special Columbia University concert documented on this two-disc set. They hadn’t performed together in more than 25 years. But talk about getting back on the bicycle: It’s difficult to imagine a more luminous, naturally flowing, enjoyable performance.

Reunion comprises two long, uninterrupted, fully improvised sets. The music unfolds in orderly fashion, with Rivers moving from tenor saxophone to piano to flute to soprano sax in set one and following a different sequence, flute first, in set two. With his short, tersely melodic phrases, he makes each instrument a reflection of the previous one-except when, halfway through the first set, his freeform piano solo suddenly breaks out in a lilting Caribbean melody. Holland and Altschul, both in supremely relaxed form, propel Rivers in alternately earthy and airy fashion and pour out captivating solos. The music is free of overriding compositional concerns. When it’s time to stop, it stops, without ceremony.

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