Sam Rivers Memorial Broadcast: Sunday, January 1st

Jazz saxophonist, flutist, and composer Sam Rivers passed away December 26th, 2011 at the age of 88. Rivers was born on September 25, 1923 in El Reno, OK to an incredibly musically talented family. Rivers grew up in Chicago, as well as on tour with his parents' musical acts, and took up the violin, trombone, and piano, before deciding to focus his energies on the tenor saxophone in the late 1930s. After joining the Navy in the mid-1940s, Rivers enrolled at Boston Conservatory and later Boston University, where he would major in composition and get involved in Boston's burgeoning jazz scene. In 1964, Rivers (along with his close friend Tony Williams) began touring with Miles Davis (his first big sideman break), and his playing would be showcased on Miles Davis' album "Live in Tokyo". He would record a string of legendary albums for Blue Note Records in the mid-1960s, including "Fuschia Swing Song" and "Contours" that would exemplify the sound of experimental post-bop that predominated on the label at the time. He was also a sideman with the likes of Andrew Hill, Cecil Taylor, and Larry Young during this period. Later on in his career, Rivers would spearhead the "Loft Jazz" movement in New York City. He and his wife Beatrice founded "Studio Rivbea" a noted jazz performance space in Noho that showcased the work of free and experimental jazz artists of the day. His own work during the 1970s also began to reflect a more avant-garde and compositionally dense bent, and he would record important works such as "Streams" and "Crystals" during this period, along with a string of trio albums with the bassist Dave Holland and the drummer Barry Altschul. While a proponent of free-jazz, Rivers had a much more academic approach than visceral bluesy free jazzers of the day such as Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman, looking instead to modern classical music for influence. Rivers would continue to record throughout his lifetime and mentoring young players such as Adam Rudolph and Jason Moran. Throughout his lifetime, Rivers was always an innovator, pushing ahead in a quest for a transcendental sound and new compositional forms. Tune in Sunday, January 1st at midnight (New Years Eve) as WKCR honors the legacy of Sam Rivers with 24 hours of his music.