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Sam Rivers' Living Legend Tribute
Jazz in Flight has dedicated the last two nights of its Eddie Moore Jazz Festival to Sam Rivers for being a living legend, whatever that means. For more than 30 years, his music has helped shape jazz as we know it. So if that earns one legendary status, then Rivers should be spoken of with the same reverence afforded to Ornette Coleman, Roscoe Mitchell, and Anthony Braxton, who were also instrumental in the development of the widely influential "new thing" (post-Eric Dolphy) from the '60s onward.

During what was arguably the music's most despondent hour (the '70s), his Rivbea loft space in New York City served as a refuge, an essential laboratory for the expansion of improv-based mediums. A virtuoso on tenor and soprano saxophones, flute, and piano, Rivers has been able to wail with both the boppers and the "free jazz" abstractionists for quite a while. He toured the world with Dizzy Gillespie during the Reagan era, then settled in Florida, where he recently launched his own label, Rivbea Sound Company, with the eclectic inaugural offering Concept.

At 73, Rivers is seemingly at the height of his creative (and technical) powers. Portrait -- an extraordinary live solo recorded at Germany's renowned Workshop Freie Musik -- testifies to that. Other recent albums (Hints of Light and Shadow, Improvisors Pool) depict the artist as an ever-evolving work in progress, one who continues to inspire and surprise. In other words, I suppose, a living legend.

-- Sam Prestianni

"Living Legend Tribute, Part I": Sam Rivers Trio perform on Saturday, Aug. 16, at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi's (in Jack London Square, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakland). Tickets are $22; call (510) 238-9200. "Living Legend Tribute, Part II": Priester/Rivers Project perform on Sunday, Aug. 17, at 8 and 10 p.m. (same venue and ticket price).

 
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