Dave Holland always described Sam Rivers’ groups as his finishing school. It was Sam who instructed him to play “all the music” – inside, outside, atonal, swing, blues, and all the hues of the jazz and chamber music traditions. By the time of Contrasts, Rivers and Holland had been working together consistently for seven years (with Dave’s Conference of the Birds at the start of the story), a powerhouse combination of multi-reeds and double bass.
Of the drummers who passed through the line-up, Thurman Barker was one of the most creative, rippling across drum kit and marimba. Young trombone innovator George Lewis had already worked with Holland and Barker in Anthony Braxton groups. For Contrasts everyone was fired up and ready to play.