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A Fireside Chat With Greg Osby

By Published: November 29, 2003

I just didn't think it was ready for release, so I decided to do something that I thought was equally as strong but something that I would be a little bit more accessible and so that's when I started the Invisible Hand project with Andrew Hill and Jim Hall. And even after that, I did the project with the strings, the Symbols of Light recording and as I was figuring what to do next, I think maybe folks have caught up with what I'm trying to do and maybe it is not that alien or that foreign to anybody anymore. Maybe it will meet a welcome reception, and so that is when I decided to put out Inner Circle. It was recorded in '99 actually.

FJ: Have folks caught up?

GO: Well, it remains to be seen, Fred. Despite what I always think and what I always endeavor towards, I see a lot of raised eyebrows and a lot of people scratching their heads when we play. When I am playing with people in my group or with someone else, they just, some people don't get it, and some people are curious, and then some people whole-heartedly embrace it because they've been waiting for that next offering.

So all in all, I can't allow myself to be influenced or swayed by public opinion or whatever because that will in some way tarnish the level of creativity and the nature of what I'm trying to do. I'll probably won't be shelving anything from this point on. Either people get it or they don't or they'll get it later. I just have to crank them out because ideas are non-stop.

FJ: People will misinterpret that as being part of your rebel and anti-establishment persona.

GO: That's a very interesting description to give anybody. I don't really understand what that means because in this music, people who are the strongest and who have made the most profound statements did what they thought was correct. They did it with honesty, with earnestness. Those are the people that we still celebrate.

I don't believe that. I'm not anti-establishment. I'm playing acoustic music and it's coming from a jazz base. I study. I try to come out of the box with something different and refreshing and progressive each time. I'm not doing the same thing over and over again. I would think anti-establishment would be somebody who is not concerned with moving forward and who is not embracing the value system of a living music. It is supposed to be propellant. It is supposed to continue to grow. I think anti-establishment would be somebody who allows themselves to stagnate and to embrace things that represent non-chance.

I'm very much establishment, Fred. I love music. I love the world. I love culture. I travel and I incorporate all of that into the music. I grow. I develop. You couldn't be more establishment than that.

However, I don't believe in living up to expectations or accommodating desires or needs. That has become the standardized approach in music and that is directly responsible for the great impasse that we are dealing with right now. The creative prowess for a lot of musicians is on a complete shutdown right now and people are stymied. They don't know what to do next because they are waiting on somebody who is "anti-establishment" to take the fall. They stick their neck out there and take the lumps so then people would know which way to go and which way not to go, not that that's my role and not that I embrace it, but I just embrace satisfying myself with doing something that will keep me inspired.

FJ: Ironic that you seem to attract these monikers while merely trying to be your own man.

GO: Absolutely, Fred. It's ironic. It's ironic that in this new millennium, we're still dealing with a society that discourages progress. Given what this government and this country is supposed to represent, they still expect you to adhere to a host of principles that really, truly are suppressive in their own way.

I'm paying for it. I'm still paying for it. I'm the poster child for wearing many hats and self help and self reliance. I don't have a booking agent. I don't have a manager, a real manager. Clubs won't book me. I go largely, everything I get I get on my own basically and I'm just grateful that I have a fan in the president of my record label, Bruce Lundvall who really believes in my music and concerned with artist development and not concerned with the fast buck or else I would have been dropped a long time ago. I'm very fortunate that I've had a twelve year run with a record company who has allowed me to document things as I see and hear them.

It is really challenging, Fred, when I have to look and see people that have just come on the scene and they don't have any track record, they don't have any credentials and they are on every jazz festival and they're making top dollar. I'm not even a money cat. It is just activity. I like to keep my band working, keep developing. It is hard to do that when you only have one or two gigs a month. So it is just an interesting dynamic.

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Download jazz mp3 “Resilience” by Greg Osby