Sam Rivers, a widely respected jazz saxophonist and composer who played with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and many other giants, died Monday in Orlando, Fla. The cause of death was pneumonia; he was 88.
Born in Oklahoma, Rivers studied at the Boston Conservatory before beginning his career during the bebop era, when he performed with Quincy Jones and other fellow newcomers. Rivers recruited 13-year-old drummer Tony Williams, who went on to a significant career with Miles Davis. Rivers himself joined Davis’ band in 1964, appearing on the album Miles in Tokyo. He left after a brief stint, replaced by Wayne Shorter. Rivers, who played tenor and soprano saxophone, flute and bass clarinet, went on to record several free-jazz albums under his own name for Blue Note.
During the 1970s Rivers and his wife, Beatrice, opened their New York loft, Studio Rivbea, to free-jazz performances, creating one of the most vibrant spaces on the “loft jazz” scene. Later in life, Rivers toured with Dizzy Gillespie’s band and worked with musicians employed by the Walt Disney Company in Orlando.