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Rivers, Sam(uel Carthorne)

Rivers, Sam(uel Carthorne)

Rivers, Sam(uel Carthorne) , jazz tenor and soprano saxophonist, flutist, pianist, composer; b. El Reno, Okla., Sept. 25, 1930. He came from a musical family; his grandfather, a minister and musician, published A Collection of Revival Hymns and Plantation Melodies (1882); his father, a Fisk Univ. graduate, sang with the Fisk Jubilee Singers and Silverstone Quartet while his mother accompanied them on piano. Sam studied violin and sang in church at age five. He studied piano, switched to trombone at 11 while living in North Little Rock, Ark., then took up saxophone at 13 and moved to Tex. to continue studies. After spending three years in the Navy, Rivers played his first professional gig in Vallejo with Jimmy Witherspoon. In 1947 he went to the Boston Cons., remaining there five years, and then studying at Boston Univ. During this time, he played with several Boston-based musicians, including Jaki Byard, Quincy Jones, Gigi Gryce, and Alan Dawson. From 1955–57, he lived in Fla., but was back in Boston in 1958 to join the Herb Pomeroy big band; at the same time, he led his own quartet with 13-year-old Tony Williams on drums. He also worked backing visiting R&B artists, including Maxine Brown, Wilson Pickett, Jerry Butler, B.B. King, and others, then toured with T-Bone Walker. He replaced George Coleman with Miles Davis for six months, including a visit to Japan (1964), and then moved to Calif, to form his first group in 1965; he was back in N.Y. by 1967. He worked with Cecil Taylor (1968–73), including a period as Artist-in-Residence at Antioch Coll., Ohio; he played briefly with M. Tyner in 1970. With his wife, Rivers opened Studio Rivbea in 1971 in lower Manhattan as center for experimental music; he worked with his own groups, Harlem Ensemble, and Winds of Manhattan. He was Composer-in-Residence for the Harlem Opera Society. In 1975, he was guest soloist with the San Francisco Symphony Orch., and his music was presented at Carnegie Hall for the 1978 Newport in N.Y. festival. A year later, his composition for 32 musicians was presented at N.Y.’s Public Theater. In the early 1990s, he moved to Orlando, Fla., becoming a vital part of the scene there and working with local musicians Anthony Cole and Doug Mathews.


Fuschia Swing Song (1964); Contours (1965); New Conception (1966); Involution (1966); Dimensions and Extensions (1967); Hues (1971); Streams: Live at Montreux (1973); Crystals (1974); Sizzle (1975); Capricorn Rising (1975); Quest (1976); Sam Rivers/Dave Holland, Vol. 2 (1976); Sam Rivers, Vol. 2 (1976); Sam Rivers and Dave Holland (1976); Paragon (1977); Waves (1978); Live Trio Sessions (1979); Contrasts (1979); Jazzbuhne Berlin ’82 (1982); Colours (1982); Lazuli (1989); Concept (1996). M. Davis: In Tokyo (1964).

—Lewis Porter

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