The Greg Osby Four
The Cleveland Play House
Since 1984, when he hooked up with Steve Coleman to form the M-BASE Collective, Greg Osby has been at the forefront of some of the more exploratory movements of the modern jazz era. He has released eleven albums as a leader for Blue Note to date, including collaborations with Joe Lovano and Andrew Hill. Currently, his latest endeavor for the label is due this summer and to support the album he’s now in the midst of a two-month tour with his quartet. Rounding out an exemplary cast of young artists, Osby fronts this group with fellow Blue Note leader Jason Moran on piano, Calvin Jones on bass, and Marvin Broween on drums.
The fourth and final performance of the A La Jazz Rendezvous concert series held at the Cleveland Play House, Osby’s quartet hit the stage of the Bolton Theatre for a Sunday afternoon performance before a very small, but appreciative audience. What became evident very early on was that Broween’s mesmerizing work was crucial to the overall development of each piece, confirming that old axiom that an ensemble is only as strong as its drummer. Osby knows how to tell a story with his horn and in addition to a very sweet tone, his mellifluous forays help make him a challenging player who is also able to connect with an audience. The same could really be said for Moran, a very versatile musician whose range takes in everything from funk to Cecil Taylor-like abstractions.
Osby and crew leaped into the first set without much fanfare, as each tune segued to the next. There were no announcements, save for Osby’s obligatory band introductions at the end of the set. Although his own originals were certainly memorable, Osby did an exceptional job of redefining a few standards. “Night and Day” made the most of Moran’s low register chords, creatively reharmonized, and a lively bossa tempo. A Blue Note gem from another era, Lou Donaldson’s “Alligator Boogaloo” found Osby preachin’ with gusto and Moran opening things up with a dense and tempestuous solo display.
The second set hit another fine balance between originals and standards. “Jitterbug Waltz” had Osby giving things a different twist by laying slightly behind the beat. During the saxophonist’s solo, Broween’s displaced triplets created a varied and highly interactive background, which in turn enticed Osby. Closing out the afternoon, Monk’s “Bye-Ya” and Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder” were choice items for this quartet, a highly integrated unit that certainly has to be one of the best groups Osby has assembled to date.