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The title of A New Conception refers to Sam Rivers’ ingenious interpretations of standards on this record. Rivers treats the songs — such familiar items as “When I Fall in Love,” “I’ll Never Smile Again,” “That’s All,” “What a Difference a Day Makes,” and “Secret Love” — with respect, but he doesn’t treat them as museum pieces. He knows that if the songs are to remain fresh, they need to be heard in different ways, and he skillfully opens up each composition to contemporary avant-garde techniques.

Rivers and his supporting trio of pianist Hal Galper, bassist Herbert Lewis, and drummer Steve Ellington gradually ease each number into more adventurous territory, slowly shifting into exploratory instrumental sections, slyly varying the melodic themes, or adding shaded dissonant textures. It’s challenging music that remains accessible, since it reconfigures familiar items in new, intriguing ways. The sheer skill in Rivers’ arrangements once again confirms his large, unfortunately underappreciated, talent. (Courtesy of www.allmusic.com)