via Jazz Times:

Sam Rivers, the multi-instrumentalist and bandleader who helped to define free jazz but whose compositions also embraced form and melody, died Dec. 26 in Orlando, Fla. He was 88. The cause of death, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel, was pneumonia.

Born in Oklahoma in 1923, Rivers, like so many other future jazz musicians, was raised on the music of the church, and his father was a gospel singer with the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Rivers’ mother taught music, and Rivers learned to play violin and piano as a child. The family lived in Chicago and Little Rock, but in 1947, Rivers, who ultimately played tenor and soprano saxophones (his primary instruments), flute, bass clarinet, piano and harmonica, moved to Boston, where he studied at the Boston Conservatory of Music and Boston University.

Early in his career, in the 1950s, Rivers played in trumpeter Herb Pomeroy’s band, alongside Quincy Jones and Jaki Byard. Rivers began to lead his own bands in the late ’50s, one of which included the teenaged drummer Tony Williams. Although he came up on bebop, Rivers took to jazz’s burgeoning avant-garde, aligning himself with the Jazz Composers’ Guild, along with such leading free-jazz figures as Cecil Taylor and Archie Shepp.

Continue reading at Jazz Times.

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