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A Fireside Chat with Greg Osby

By Published: February 21, 2004

AAJ: What are the numbers? How much is a Greg Osby record?

GO: The average record costs between $35,000 and $40,000. That is all in and includes rehearsals, travel, accommodations, meals, recording, mixing, and mastering.

AAJ: Flipside, in order for a record label to recoup that cash, how many records need to be sold?

GO: More than I am selling, more than I sell the first quarter of the release. Now over the years the sales, through the trickle down effect, they will recoup and if they don't recoup, their children will recoup and their children's children will recoup. Good jazz is like good wine. It maintains its potency and its value. Every jazz classic that we know now wasn't a classic when it was recorded. It is a classic now. I doubt every Miles Davis or every John Coltrane recording sold thousands and thousands when they were released. On the flipside again, it takes those rock and roll records eighteen months to record. They may spend a whole week doing one guitar solo, whereas we do our records in two days, sometimes one day. That paint by numbers approach is really for people who don't know music and they just cut and paste note by note and now with the advent of Pro Tools and digital recording, you have people that can't sing or can't play and have no talent can put together a recording, but can't replicate it live because they are singing to a track. We are about spontaneity. We are about creativity. We are about progression. We are not about pleasing people and adhering to a fad or a trend.

AAJ: That is the luxury of being on Blue Note and having a cat like Bruce Lundvall believe in artist development.

GO: Bruce Lundvall used to be a tenor saxophonist. He knew all the cats in the Fifties and hung out at all the spots. He is a jazz fan first and foremost. He is really into it. It is not about numbers. He has kept people on the label including me and sees the big picture. You need people that are in it for the love of it and down the road, everybody will prosper. Look at Verve and all the people who were on the label last year that aren't on it this year. You want to talk about loyalty or lack thereof it. You have to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If the people have talent, it is going to emerge and people will respond to it in due time.

AAJ: As much as I bitch and moan about the record industry, it is merely a microcosm of the times we live in. The world doesn't nurture anything.

GO: Check it out, Fred. Now, given the access that we have and the immediacy of the delivery of information on a global scale, audiences are less tolerant of certain things. You have some people that will accept anything that they are fed and then you have some people that can't take it anymore and as a result, I am seeing younger people come to my concerts. It is just amazing, the turnaround. I gay friend of mine said that there are a lot of gay fans of the music and if I catered to the gay audience, they are more loyal than anybody and you will go platinum. "We are all professional and all make six figures and we are loyal baby."

AAJ: Who is in the Greg Osby Four?

GO: I have a young Japanese pianist. She is a student at Berklee right now. Her name is Megumi Yonezawa. She has been studying with Jason for the last couple of years. I am using a guitarist on some gigs. His name is Mike Moreno and he actually went to the same high school as Jason. I also have on drums, drummer Damion Reid. His father is a bassist. He reminds me a lot of Eric Harland. My other find, but I want to say under my breath, because people lay in wait to steal my band members, but I have this great nineteen-year-old bassist named Matt Brewer. He is a student at Julliard.

AAJ: You're old timin' with all these young guns.

GO: But I am proud to be in that type of position and I feel committed and compelled to avail any information that I may possess to these younger players. The well is pretty dry as far as nurturing type situations and I have always been obligated to do that. That is the way it should go. Otherwise, what is the point of being secretive about stuff that can make the whole scene hip.

AAJ: What color are your St. Louis shoes now?

GO: I still have black and white shoes.

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