R.I.P. SAM RIVERS (1923 – 2011)

Sam Rivers left us on December 26. The piano has as many keys as he had years to walk on earth: 88.

Sam Rivers had of course a much wider horizon, far beyond the limitations of any instrument. He was free.

A true master is gone, but he fortunately left a huge body of work to explore: Sam Rivers’ Website with a lot of CD recommendations.

One of his most obscure, and almost forgotten recordings happened during his short stint with the 1960’s edition of the Miles Davis Quintet; and I think it would be a fitting requiem for the great musician, teacher, and inspirer to post this fabulous rendition of My Funny Valentine from the Tokyo Concert (July 14, 1964).

Slightly edited quote from one of the reviews of this CD:

Another good reason for purchasing the Tokyo concert is that it includes -what biographer Chambers calls- the essential performance of My Funny Valentine. I have to agree with that assessment.

An also very exclusive meeting was the advanced LP Conference Of The Birds where Sam Rivers (here on flute & soprano sax) participated under bassist Dave Holland’s nominal leadership, together with Anthony Braxton (also on flute) and Barry Altschul on marimba, drums & percussion.

Feel free to listen to the title track of the album, recorded for ECM in 1972:

Conference Of The Birds.

Blog owner’s note: Since most of you won’t have a turntable, I’d recommend to go for the CD’s. — All posted tracks have been transferred from the original vinyl discs.

An e-mail now, I wrote to a friend yesterday:

When I walked through Cologne’s Aachener Str. yesterday afternoon, I spontaneously decided to visit a record store and get some “new” LP’s.

Among them was Miles Heard ‘Round The World, a CBS-twofer from 1983, containing two concerts with Miles’ mid-1960’s Quintet. On one of the discs is a Tokyo concert with Sam Rivers. I never had this one before, and so I bought it.

Some hours later I played the (great) music, and then I heard the news for the very first time: Sam Rivers died in Orlando, FL, at the age of 88.


It’s sad in this case, but I really must be connected somehow.

Sam Rivers Interview on NPR Radio

R.I.P. Sam Rivers, musician.

P.S. — No post/ obituary on Sam Rivers without mentioning his greatest hit which became a standard; and this means something if you consider him being one of the spearheads of the Free & Loft Jazz Movement.

At first the original version from his initial album Fuchsia Swing Song (Blue Note, 1964) with Jackie Byard on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums:

Now, another Beatrice, here interpreted by Chet Baker in his beloved drum-less trio setting with Chet on trumpet, Michel Graillier on piano, and Ricardo Del Fra on acoustic bass.

This LP was recorded in Monster, Holland, on May 25, 1983:


It can be found here:

Chet Baker Trio – Mr. B

An interesting P.S. RE: The Miles Davis Quintet in Japan, found HERE:

Miles in Tokyo, July 14, 1964:

“The author of the [Live in Tokyo] liner notes mentions that Davis did three concerts with Rivers in the quintet in Japan. This disc is taken from the second concert. It was released somewhat later than the concert itself, and he talks about how he remembered the version of My Funny Valentine, and how pleased he was that they got it on tape.
He also talks about the trouble Davis had finding a saxophonist for his band at that time. He had wanted Shorter for a few years, but Shorter kept turning him down.

The notes go on to say that Tony Williams recommended Rivers, but that Rivers and Davis did not get along musically. Rivers was musically more “outside” than Davis was. Davis could handle that type of music, but Miles was also interested in keeping his music commercially accessible. Rivers also was not interested too much in playing things like ‘My Funny Valentine.’

The first concert supposedly did not go well. Rivers was playing outside, and Davis was playing inside, and the thing did not jell. The recording comes from the second concert, and apparently the two men tried to reach a musical accommodation with each other. Rivers played more inside than usual, and Davis seemed to be playing a bit more outside than usual. The result is a unique document.

At the third concert, the musical compromise fell apart, and it was apparently as unsatisfying as the first concert.

Rivers left the band shortly thereafter.

Bill Sakovich

Vladimir Simosko adds:

“…contrary to the liners… quoted, I’d have to suggest that to my ears the Kyoto concert was superior to Tokyo. A private tape of it was circulating ‘way back and I’ve listened to both concerts in order. Both private tapes (Tokyo was not yet released) were in excellent fidelity and the tunes were almost the same… Ever since Tokyo was issued, I’ve been hoping Kyoto would follow, but no luck so far.”

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