1. Fuchsia Swing Song (320kbps mp3)
2. Cyclic Episode (320kbps mp3)
Sam Rivers (tenor saxophone) Jaki Byard (piano) Ron Carter (bass) Anthony Williams (drums) Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, December 11, 1964
Music: the Critics say –
The Allmusic review awarded the album 4½ stars:
Of Rivers: Recorded in 1964 immediately after leaving the Miles Davis Quintet, Sam Rivers’ Fuchsia Swing Song is one of the more auspicious debuts the label released in the mid-’60s. Rivers was a seasoned session player (his excellent work on Larry Young’s Into Somethin’ is a case in point)…By the time of his debut (album), Rivers had been deep under the influence of Coltrane and Coleman, but wasn’t willing to give up the blues. Hence the sound on Fuchsia Swing Song is that of an artist at once self-assured and in transition….Rivers took the hard bop and blues of his roots and poured them through the avant-garde collander.
Of the title track: Rivers opens with an angular figure that is quickly translated by the band into sweeping, bopping blues. River’s legato is lightning quick and his phrasing touches upon Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins, Coleman, and Coltrane, but his embouchure is his own.
1964 was in some way a crossroads, hard bop losing its grip, the pull of the avant garde one way, soul jazz another, the blues tradition lingering, and the out and out individualists like Mingus out to confuse trend-followers. Rivers eventually sided with the avant garde but left us a number of albums at this crossroads, accessible from all directions. Melodic headline statements, swinging extended improvisations, anticipatory free digressions and dissonances, but still an integrated quartet listening to each other, playing together, not heroic soloist endless angst. (It’s “music”, not some kind of spiritual enema)
Rivers pays a debt to Coltrane on this first album, no bad thing in itself, close your eyes and ask “who is this tenor player?” It can be enjoyed in the same spirit. Accompanied by a rhythm section comprised of the luminous talents of Anthony Williams (a frighteningly precocious young drummer, probably aged seven at the time of recording, ok, maybe seventeen) the Miles Davis second quintet bass stalwart Ron Carter, and the mercurial piano stylist of Mingus, Jackie Byard.
And all on Blue Note, recorded by Van Gelder, what’s not to like? Well for a start, the price! This one joined LJC’s small “just crossed the three figure” club.
Vinyl: Blue Note BLP 4184, NY labels mono Van Gelder.
The recording: Typically hard-boiled mid ’60s Blue Note mono production. Van Gelder had by now nearly a decade’s practice at turning out this calibre of recordings. Bright, punchy, intense, no messing with instrument positioning, concentrated music. Not his very very best but no slouch.
The cover: thick card laminate with sharp corners, makes me feel much better about the price. Reid Miles cover design flirting with the expanded reality of the circular image fish-eye lens, I guess a novelty of the day. I have a 14mm fisheye in my armoury and it’s an incredibly powerful viewpoint chosen right, hyper reality, or a dreadful cliché chosen wrong. Tinted monochrome, the gaunt figure of Rivers, the gritty NY high-rise backcloth, and the iconic tenor, says it all, a perfect graphical expression of the music. Set in subliminal brown – that’s not “fuchsia”.
My sole winning from the auction of a true jazz collectors hoard, most achieving way over my estimate of a fair price. That’s how it works with Ebay. A fastidious jazz collector’s collection is up for auction. Every jazz collector who comes a cross one item then clicks on the sellers other items, and pretty soon there are a whole lot of vultures circling the carcass. Even less desirable titles are bid up by the presence of so many watchers, and over the space of two to three weeks everything is gone, at fancy prices. Disappointing, but at least I got to go home with one.