NOJO/Sam Rivers City of Neighbourhoods

Jazz is an aural art, passed down by one’s predecessors through heard performances and recordings. Musicians seek out their sonic forebears in order to offer their respect and, if they’re lucky, to "catch the spark” of inspiration. Buddhists call this "darshan,” being in the presence of the master. That something unspoken passes between those present is a matter of experience for many musicians treading the path towards musical self-realisation. So, not surprisingly, musicians/composers Paul Neufeld and Michael Occhipinti sought out one of their heroes, saxophonist/composer Sam Rivers, wrote charts featuring him, hung out at length with the venerable veteran, and recorded a damn fine CD with him. The tunes by the co-leaders of NOJO are well-crafted and eclectic and, given the brilliant, dynamic drumming of Barry Romberg and muscular bass of Roberto Occhipinti, the seven pieces cover a lot of territory without fraying at the edges. My favourite piece is "The Glassblower,” which opens with a delicate flute duet and then opens up for Rivers to play all three of his horns as only he can, with swirling, darting lines that ripple and roar by turns. At his age, we could reasonably expect Rivers to need a respirator. Instead, he charges into the tunes with vigour and youthful exuberance, clearly pleased with the challenges the Toronto duo and their nonet have thrown down. No doubt, the circumstances surrounding this recording will be long remembered by the participants, and we can enjoy the results again and again. (True North)