might not be a household name when it comes
to saxophone players, but he should be. He
has a strong cult following, and I am proud
to be among that contigent. At 87 years
young, he's one of the handful of
octogenarians still actively playing. To put
it into perspective, he is older than John
Coltrane and Miles Davis, and is only three
years younger than Charlie Parker. His
contributions and critical acclaim might not
be as widely acknowledged and celebrated as
those of Davis, Coltrane or Parker, but they
still play a pivotal role in jazz. It should
not be forgotten.
The breakthrough album for Rivers was his
Blue Note debut as a leader titled, 'Fuchsia
Swing Song' in 1964. The album features the
highly underrated Jaki Byard on piano, Ron
Carter on bass and an 18 year old Tony
Williams on drums. Ron Carter and Tony
Williams went on to fame after joining Miles
Davis and forming his second great quintet.
It should however be noted that Sam Rivers
had been working with Tony Williams since he
was 13 years old. He obviously saw the raw
talent Williams had.
The style of Fuchsia Swing Sing is somewhat
hard to place into an idiom or genre. It's
clearly riding the wave of the free jazz
movement ushered in by Ornette Coleman, but
it's much more than that. It's an
amalgamation of free jazz, hard bop and the
blues, creating it's own unique sound.
down this album meant paying handsomely for
the now out of print domestic and Japanese
CD editions, or the various import vinyl
pressings. The Mosaic Sam Rivers boxset was
also an option, but that too has been long
out of print. Thankfully, Music Matters just
released the album in their usual 45rpm x
2LP format. A word to describe it?
Superlative. You will not find a better
version of this LP anywhere. Like all Music
Matters titles, it was mastered by the duo
of Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray. Listening
to it was an aural treat. The title track
immediately jumps out at you. It's hard to
fathom that such magnificent drumming came
from an 18 year old kid. Jaki Byard and Ron
Carter are both in fine form, and the
stellar fidelity makes you appreciate it
even more. I really was enthralled by the
full bodied sound of the LP on the cuts like
'Luminous Monolith' and 'Beatrice' when
Rivers is front and center, wailing away
like nobody's business. The music, like the
sonics are first rate.
In addition to the wonderful mastering, the
packaging is also magnificent. It's issued
on thick, glossy sleeves with a gatefold
cover of Francis Wolff snapshots of the
recording session. Looking at it, while
listening to the music makes it feel like
you are right there with them at Rudy Van
Gelder's recording studio. It truly is
I can't recommend this title enough. It will
no doubt go out of print. I personally
bought two copies because there are certain
titles from the Music Matters series that
you know beforehand will go out of print
quickly. 'Out to Lunch' by Eric Dolphy and
'Matador' by Grant Green come to mind.
'Fuchsia Swing Song' will no doubt join
their ranks. Don't hesitate to grab a copy.
At $50, it's a relative bargain.
any suggestions for jazz recording gems.
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