Joseph Daley (Euphonium, Tuba, Processed Sounds)
Scott Robinson (tenor sax, bass sax, contrabass Sarrusophone,
Jazzophone, bass flute, theremin, waterphone, contra alto
Warren Smith (Multiple Percussion Instrument, timpani, bass
drum, gongs, cymbals, cow bells, wood blocks, crotales,
Rec. April 3 & 4 2014, Sciensonic Laboratories, Teaneck (NJ).
A glorious celebration of the late Sam Rivers. On the digipack in which the
CD comes, Joseph Daley writes “This project is dedicated to the memory of
my good friend and mentor Sam Rivers, remembering the inspiring times that
I experienced at Studio Rivbea in New York, under the watchful and
supportive eyes of both Sam and Bea Rivers”. For all the use of words such
as “memory” and “remembering”, the music is not essentially retrospective
or elegiac – rather it celebrates Rivers’ commitment to musical innovation
and adventure by itself being innovative and adventurous. Only one tune
here is actually by Rivers, ‘Beatrice’, a tribute to his wife – an apt
choice given Daley’s dedication of this album to “both Sam and Bea Rivers”.
Of this tuba trio both Daley and Smith worked with Rivers in his tuba trio. Robinson is a remarkable musician, less well-known
than he ought to be, who, like Rivers himself, has included many kinds of
jazz in his career. His CV includes, in no particular order, work
/recordings with John Pizzarelli, Randy Sandke, Ruby Braff, Clark Terry,
Frank Wess, Paquito D’Rivera, Bob Brookmeyer, Anthony Braxton, Don Sebesky,
Maria Schneider, Marshall Allen, Henry Grimes, Ron Carter, Carol Sloane,
Manhattan Transfer, Bob Mintzer, Max Roach, Ronnie Cuber, Lionel Hampton,
Illinois Jacquet, Ravi Coltrane, Jack McDuff, Freddie Hubbard, Doc Cheatham
and Joe Lovano. (Oh, and David Bowie and Jessye Norman!).
Each member of this trio is a multi-instrumentalist (see above), which
means that the sound texture is constantly shifting, though always staying
in the bass range. The longest track is ‘Terrarium’ (20:38); the others
range from the shortest, Emergence’ (5:30), to ‘Interplay’ (12:31).
‘Terrarium’ is also the most complex and rewarding track on the album. In
the brief notes with this CD it is described thus: “Prepared sound textures
as a color palette for development by each member of the ensemble”. The
“sound textures” were prepared by Daley. Over them Daley plays, at various
times, the euphonium and the tuba, Robinson is heard on bass flute and
contra-bass clarinet, as well as waterphone, theramin and ‘Photo theramin’
(which, I believe, uses a light sensitive photocell to control pitch.
Smith’s array of percussion includes tympani, wood blocks, MPI and marimba.
The prepared electronic track serves, to pick up Daley’s reference to “a
palette”, as a kind of canvas on which the three ‘live’ musicians ‘paint’ a
number of shapes and patterns, singly or together. As on most of the other
tracks, ‘Terrarium’ contains a good deal of group improvisation. Smith’s
marimba is subtly beautiful; Robinson’s bass flute and clarinet are often
prominent and often exist in improvised counterpoint with Daley’s brass
instruments. A terrarium can refer either to a vivarium for small land
animals, most often reptiles, or to a sealable glass container in which
plants are grown. The second meaning seems most relevant here. There is
certainly nothing ‘reptilian’ about the music; indeed, I wonder if there
may not be an interesting allusion in the title. During the 1970s the
Rivers, husband and wife, organized one of the most important of the ‘jazz
lofts’ of the period, known as ‘Studio Rivbea. It was a major centre for
the freer jazz of the time and many important musicians (including Daley)
played there. A major series of recordings made there was issued by Douglas
as a series of LPs, under the collective title Wildflowers. The
allusion is surely there on a ‘tribute’ to Sam and Bea Rivers. ‘Terrarium’
is not, I suppose, ‘easy listening’, but it is certainly rewarding
listening and its collective improvisation is never wild or ugly. Indeed,
I’d say that it has, predominantly, a meditative, even spiritual, quality –
though Smith’s busy percussion ensures that it never becomes static or
stays in the same mood for too long. A fascinating piece – my only
complaint is that both my CD players had tracking problems when playing
this track on the review copy I had.
If my talk of free jazz and collective improvisation scares anyone, they
might like to try the beautiful reading of ‘Beatrice’. This is a relatively
‘straight’ rendition of what is one of Sam Rivers’ most frequently played
compositions. Smith is impressive at the vibraphone at the beginning of the
track, producing some wonderful floating textures; there is some beautiful
interplay between Daley’s tuba and, at different points, Robinson’s tenor
sax and bass flute. The track should surely convince any listener just what
good musicians all three members of this Tuba Trio are.
I have said enough, I hope, to make it clear that I find this an
exceptionally interesting and satisfying album. The fascinating
interactions between the musicians are a delight in themselves and track
after track produces rich and unfamiliar textures. Do please try The Tuba Trio Chronicles if you can.