AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Sam Rivers Quartet – Braids [No Business Records NBCD 138]

It was April, 1979, in the tiny room upstairs at dc space, the long-gone—it’s now a Starbucks, of all things—venue for adventurous groups like the Sam Rivers Quartet, which was playing that night. It was an incandescent performance consisting of one long, intensely-played set. I was there, and still remember it vividly more than forty years later. A month after they played dc space the quartet was in Europe; their concert in Hamburg, Germany from 15 May is documented on Braids, the fourth installment in No Business Records’ extraordinary Sam Rivers Archive Project.

By 1979, Rivers had expanded the trio format he used in the mid-1970s to a quartet; bassist Dave Holland, doubling on cello, was still with him, but Thurman Barker had replaced Barry Altschul on drums, and Joe Daley, playing tuba and euphonium, was added as the fourth member. The double bass-tuba pairing was an unusual one, but even with its bias toward the lower end of the sound spectrum, the group could move nimbly and with a clarity of line, as the Hamburg recording shows.

The album consists of two tracks, the first of which ends in a fade; presumably, both are from the same set, part of which is missing. The music opens with Rivers on tenor in the midst of a collective polyphony that gradually settles into a relaxed groove led by Holland, and culminates in an intense, very fast swing. If the first track deals in high-energy playing, the second, longer track shows the group’s mastery of nuanced textural playing. Barker opens it with a drum solo, which segues into Rivers on solo piano. Over the course of the thirty-plus minutes, the texture undergoes constant changes, with voices being added and subtracted in various combinations and all four players leaving ample space for each other. Particularly arresting are duets for Rivers’ flute, first with Holland on bowed bass and then with Daley on tuba. This clearly was a group that could make the unlikeliest-seeming instrumental combinations work beautifully and naturally.
Daniel Barbiero


Thurman Barker / Douglas Ewart at Interpretations

From New York’s Interpretations:


The concert series featuring leading figures in contemporary music and multi-media arts celebrates its 20th Season! Thursday December 11, 2008, 8pm at Roulette

Strike Force: Bryan Carrott, vibraphone; Eli Fountaine, marimba; Wilson Moorman, xylophone and tympani; Ray Mantilla, conga drums and percussion; Thurman Barker, drums

Inventions: Reggie Nicholson, marimba/drums; Henry Grimes, bass/violin; Adegoke Steven Colson, piano; Craig Harris, trombone/didjeridu/percussion; Douglas R. Ewart, reeds/didjeridu/percussion; and special guest Shaku Joseph Jarman, poetry and winds.

Celebrating his 60th birthday, THURMAN BARKER brings his mighty percussion quintet Strike Force to town. Employing multiple mallet instruments, tympani, congas, drum set, and yet other percussion, Strike Force creates a fresh combination of notated and improvised music. “This group allows me an opportunity to compose in a style that comes natural for me. A style where Rhythm and texture is the focus. Writing for skins, metal and wood, provide a wide range to work with. Also, working with exceptional Percussionists, each bringing their own unique skills and style is a challenge and fun for me.”

DOUGLAS EWART’s ensemble, Inventions, maintains its continuum with “Reflection of Haiti”, a set of new works celebrating Ewart’s recent ‘wonderful and challenging’ trip to Haiti and his friendship both musical and personal with the late AACM trumpeter Lester Bowie. “Lester was a powerful spirit and I have a special place for him in my heart for him, as person and a consummate artists and particularly, as a trumpet player. I once wanted to be a trumpeter and it is one of my favorite sound generating devices. One of the sounds that I am particularly fond of is the rattling sound that the players saliva creates, it is alive in every sense!” This program will feature a simultaneous performance with musicians from Haiti, using videoconferencing technology.

Thurman Barker began his professional career at the young age of 16 playing for blues singer Mighty Joe Young. Classically trained at the American Conservatory of Music his reputation as a drummer grew quickly. He has played backup for Billy Eckstein, Marvin Gaye, Bette Midler and Vicki Carr. He was the house drummer at the Schubert Theatre in Chicago for 10 years where he played for national touring companies in Hair, The Wiz, The Me Nobody Knows, Promises, Promises, 1776, Bubblin Brown Sugar, Raisin in the Sun, Grease, One Mo’ Time, and Aint Misbehavin. Mr. Barker is a charter member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), an organization with which he continues his association to this day. He has performed and is known worldwide. He has recorded with Cecil Taylor, Muhal Richard Abrams, Amina Claudine Meyers, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Sam Rivers, Billy Bang, Joseph Jarman, and Henry Threadgill. He has produced four recordings under his own record label, Uptee Productions with a fifth currently under production to be released fall of ’08. In 1994, his work “Dialogue,” commissioned by the Mutable Music, was premiered at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City. He has since completed a second commission by the Mutable Music as well as two commissions by the Delaware Valley Chamber Orchestra in Sullivan County, New York. The Woodstock Chamber Orchestra premiered a chamber piece of his entitled “Expansions” in May of ’99. In the fall of ’99 Thurman Barker was given the honor of being a lecturer at Smolny University in St. Petersburg, Russia. He has taught and developed the jazz program at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York since 1993 and is an Associate Professor of Jazz Studies there.
Listen to Strike Force here:

Perhaps best known as a composer, improviser, sculptor and maker of masks and instruments, Douglas R. Ewart is also an educator, lecturer, arts organization consultant and all around visionary. In projects done in diverse media throughout an award-winning and widely-acclaimed 30-year career, Mr. Ewart has woven his remarkably broad gifts into a single sensibility that encourages and celebrates – as an antidote to the divisions and compartmentalization afflicting modern life – the wholeness of individuals in culturally active communities. Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1946, Douglas R. Ewart immigrated to Chicago, Illinois in the United States in 1963. His travels throughout the world and interactions with diverse people since then has, again and again confirmed his view that the world is an interdependent entity. His determination to spread his perspective is part of the inspiration behind his often multi-disciplinary works and their encouragement of artist-audience interactions. It is also the basis of the teaching philosophy with which he guides his classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he has taught since 1990, and the basis of the perspective he has brought to his service on advisory boards for institutions such as The National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer, Arts Midwest, and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). His administrative, teaching and other duties have not prevented Ewart from maintaining two musical ensembles, the Nyahbingi Drum Choir and the Clarinet Choir. Nor has it prevented him from releasing some of the resulting music on his own record label, Aarawak Records (founded in 1983), which has released his Red Hills and Bamboo Forest.

Listen to Inventions here:

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