Sam Rivers Waves

This sure is a funky record. Rivers is still going strong, now in his late 70s, and this is a great example of his work. It comes from the vaults of the unsung Tomato Records, who put out a good deal of R&B and jazz in the '70s and '80s. On this self-production from 1977, Rivers is equally compelling on piano, sax and flute, and will alternate between all three in a song if necessary. The title, Waves, is apt for the album, as each instrument comes into focus then drops out, but within a consistent and rock-inflected rhythm. This shouldn't suggest that this is a fusion album with electric keyboards and such, but that the superb rhythm section of Dave Holland (bass) and especially the unstoppable Thurman Barker (drums) locks into jittery patterns that are just funky. This pervades almost all cuts; the last minute or so of "Torch" could be very effective drum & bass if sliced up a bit. The unusual addition of Bob Daley on tuba is also cool; it provides a more nuanced bottom end when part of the rhythm section and can also be a solo instrument in tandem with Rivers' tenor. Barker is almost as versatile as Rivers, moving from one combination of drums to another, then to bells and xylophone, all the while matching Holland and Daley in polyrhythmic drive. Everybody's feeling it on this one and it's a welcome re-release. (Tomato)