Positive Music Place

Remembering Rivers

Posted by dlockeretz on December 28, 2011

The world of jazz lost one of its veterans on Monday, when saxophonist/flutist Sam Rivers died at age 88.

That age represents a good run for anyone from any walk of life.  For a jazz musician, 88 far exceeds the industry standard; it’s considerably longer than the lives of John Coltrane and Charlie Parker put together.

So what exactly did Sam Rivers do during his 88 years?  While he might not be a household name outside of jazz circles, Rivers put together quite a resume, playing with Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker and many others.  I first discovered him on his recordings with Latin jazz pianist Hilton Ruiz.

In some ways, Rivers ran contrary to what one might expect from a jazz man; not just in his longevity.  He grew up in the Midwest and spent some time in Boston.  By the time he moved to New York and got his big break, playing with Miles Davis, he had already outlived ‘Trane and Bird.

He spent his last two decades in Orlando,  a city not exactly known as a hotbed for jazz.  In his tribute, Orlando Sentinel music critic Jim Abbot describes the impact Rivers had on that city’s music scene.

It’s always sad to say goodbye to a veteran jazz musician, even when they live to a nice old age.  But Rivers’ life was such that his death is more like an occasion to share stories and enjoy his music than to shake heads and wonder what might have been.  The legacy of Sam Rivers may be a quiet one in some ways, but it’s not going anywhere.

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