Colours, recorded in Milan in 1982 with his group Winds of Manhattan, is demanding, occasionally discordant, sometimes dense, sometimes austere and rhythmically idiosyncratic. There is simply no “easy” way to listen to it. This is jazz meticulously arranged for an ensemble with no drummer, no bassist, no brass and no keyboard or guitar player. The entire sonic range consists of eleven saxophones and/or flutes.
“Lilacs” starts with everyone playing the theme in unison. It sounds like a bop chart, but without a rhythm section, the piece gets totally recast. Rivers burns on tenor as the band vamps behind him. The title track presents a slowly shifting melodic line, while long-tone chords hold the harmony in suspension. “Spiral” has a twisting line, one repeated phrase chasing the previous one. It’s busy, but every line is lucid. Double solos run through the piece. They’re tough to separate, but with players like Steve Coleman and Bobby Watson, all are good. “Matrix” alternates staccato bursts — baritones with baritones, sopranos with sopranos, tenors with tenors — with rich harmonic tapestry. Rivers brings out his distinctive flute playing for “Revival.” “Blossom" ends the album on an ambitious note. Without solos, lengthy and challenging, it features a rush of flutes, rhythmically restless unison phrases and the intriguing use of counterpoint. It is a most impressive piece of composing and arranging. (Charles Farrell)
Sam Rivers (soprano & tenor saxophone, flute); Marvin Blackman (soprano & tenor saxophone, flute); Talib Kibwe (soprano and tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute); Chris Roberts (soprano saxophone, flute); Steve Coleman (alto saxophone, flute); Bobby Watson (alto saxophone, flute); Nat Dixon (tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute); Bill Cody (tenor saxophone, oboe); Eddie Alex (tenor saxophone, piccolo); Jimmy Cozier (baritone saxophone, flute); Patience Higgins (baritone saxophone, flute).
Recorded on September 13, 1982 at Cine Music Studio, Milano (Italy).