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crystals LP

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Seminal big band recording from an unsung master. 16 May 2004
By Troy Collins - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Long before Sam Rivers' late 1990s big band albums, Inspiration and Culmination were nominated for Grammys, there was Crystals, from 1974. Although Crystals is Rivers' earliest foray into large-scale ensemble writing, it is by no means an embryonic effort.
Recorded in the halcyon days of the loft-jazz scene, Crystals is a somewhat more accessible affair than one would expect. In the experimental big band tradition of Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton and Sun Ra, Sam Rivers' first big band album makes a fine contribution to this often under-sung genre.
The opening cut, "Exultation" lives up to its title. Horn lines weave around each other as River's soprano snakes through them, never flagging in intensity. "Tranquility" follows, with a funky acoustic bass and tuba ostinato leading the ensemble into a mid-tempo groove. "Postlude" is a short interlude that leads into the albums second side, starting with "Bursts," a scorching free-bop feature for River's furious tenor. The march-like collective improvisation "Orb" takes the energy level down just a notch to prepare for the climactic closer, "Earth Song".
Embracing the discordant linear quality of Muhal Abrams writing, albeit less rigid, more swinging and occasionally even funky, Rivers big band compositions are more accessible than Braxton's but further out than anything Mingus had attempted at the time. While Crystals may be the blueprint for his more recent big band albums, it is more than just a historical curiosity. Not for the faint of heart, Crystals is creative orchestral music at it's most challenging and rewarding.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Creative Orchestral Music 15 Jan. 2008
By Caesar Warrington - Published on
Format: Audio CD
One of the most original talents to emerge from the 1960's avant jazz scene, Sam Rivers is best known as a saxophonist of striking lyricism and power.

Originally released in 1974, CRYSTALS was Rivers' debut as a leader of large-scale ensembles, showcasing his skills as both an arranger and a composer.

CRYSTALS contains six tracks, all written and arranged by Rivers:

6/"Earth Song"
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Avant intensity and groove 18 July 2004
By Pharoah S. Wail - Published on
Format: Audio CD
After hearing this album, I'm surprised I never heard more about it beforehand. As far as I am concerned, it's a forgotten peak in avant garde jazz. To put it in a larger context, I'd bet that William Parker loves this album, as I feel like it must have been a factor in the inspiration for Parker's Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. I mean that as a compliment to both Rivers and Parker. It's not a Little Huey album, though. As much as I like it, I could never choose it over Mayor of Punkville or Raincoat in the River, Vol. 1: Ica Concert.

This may sound odd but I don't know the names of any of these tunes. I put the disc in and that's it. Track 1 has some absolutely ruthless bass playing and more of those moments that make me believe Rivers was a major inspiration for Evan Parker's soprano saxophone experiments. The context around Rivers here is much more "free jazz"-styled than the utterly weird and gorgeous free-improvisation contexts that Evan so often is in, but still.... Sam's own playing on track one is a fireball of soprano intensity that seems to point the way towards some of the places Evan's playing would later evolve. Fantastic stuff.

I won't comment on every track, as that must be annoying to readers, but I have to talk about track two. Every time I listen to this one I picture Pam Grier circa 1974 putting her shirt back on, then surprising the guy she is with by kicking his teeth in. The bassline here is just pure acoustic Blaxploitation funk at its best. Rivers is not content with staying there, though. As the song progresses, the rhythmically shifting horns tug my attention away from the bassline and a whole other mood seems to overtake the song, and then somehow you morph back into the Blaxploitation funk. I love the way my mood changes throughout the various points in this track.

If you're looking to enter the world of Sam Rivers, this and the masterpiece, Fuchsia Swing Song, are great places to start. Both completely unlike each other, but both very rewarding.
Classic 16 May 2010
By Bill Your 'Free Form FM Print DJ - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
If Impulse! had lost some of its 1960s Coltrane firepower by the 1970s, no one sent Sam Rivers the telegram. Crystals is one of the most out jazz albums I have ever heard, and I have been flying on this plane for twenty years.

In a sense, this is an extension of John Coltrane's Ascension in that you have large parts of collective improvisation. Loud collective improvisation. But Rivers also composes much more complex parts than the blues bases Coltrane was using in the mid-1960s. This music is not head and blow, but complex figures, big sheets of improv, and more compositional complexity. Loud complexity.

Rivers also has flutes on Crystals, and the textures are varied: loud and soft, graceful and abrasive.

It all works, and if the jazz avant guard had turned into a more fragmented and diverse animal by the 1970s--no figure could rule jazz the way Coltrane did when rock and all its offspring made music so much wider than it had been in 1965 when the only real artistic competition jazz had was the Beatles--Rivers shows on Crystals a master, even in a much bigger world, can still pull a major masterpiece together.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
review 18 Nov. 2003
By nicholas l lovell - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This is the consummate Rivers big band recording ranging from funk to freeform.Not for the faint-hearted however.
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