Greg Osby: New Mission, New Label, New Responsibility
AAJ: Let's turn to the roster of Inner Circle Music. Is there a common thread in what you found in these different artists?
GO: Desire. Panache. Adventure. This is not your run-of-the-mill bunch. Of course, everyone would say that about themselves and those in their immediate circle.
I have a vibraphonist, Michael Pintos. It's interesting how we met. We met through a mutual friend. We were talking about video games. And my love for Star Wars and things science fiction. And he was right there along with me. I was elated [chuckles] to find someone who I could relate to on that level. 'Cause that's my fantasy facet that I can't share with everyone. A lot of people consider it to be nerdy, or wastefulthey just don't get it. He also shares my love of computers and technology and high tech.
He is just an amazing composer. He writes these elongated pieces, very through composed, which I tease him about. A lot of vibraphonists, guitarists, as well as pianists, write these long phrases and don't give people a chance to breathe. So he's guilty of that sometimes [Laughs]. But I'm really, really, really proud of him and very much looking forward to presenting him to the world on stage. He has a different slant on the instrument. He's absorbed all the people who are important [on the vibraphone], but he has something different to bring to it. Especially in terms of composition. I'm really looking forward to people checking him out in his own format.
I have a saxophonist from Kansas City, Logan Richardson. Amazing. He's been playing with Nasheet Waits' group. I have another tenor player, Meilana Gillard. She's from Ohio. She has this real cool, modernist kind of groove-oriented thing, but still heavy on the compositions. Great sound. Great articulation.
And another young lady, Lauren Sevian on baritone saxophone. She really roars. She's a kick-ass baritone saxophone and probably the most straight ahead of the people. When people hear it, they are going to be like, who is this guy? She's very good looking, very cool. A very down chick; a man's woman. You know, somebody you like to hang out around. She takes no prisoners with the horn.
I have another young man, Jacob Yoffee. He's living in Pittsburgh right now and is a copy of Gary Thomas, so he has a lot of those aspects to show. I signed him because I really wanted to show that there are alternative sources for young players to check out. Because nobody ever really checked out Gary to my satisfaction. He's a great resource. All the young altoists are on this Kenny Garrett trip, but there are a whole lot of other cats to be influenced by.
And Harold O'Neil on piano. We'll be releasing his project in the early part of 2009. He's been in and out of the band, back and forth from his native town Kansas City. For lack of a better description, he's a contemporary Andrew Hill; a composer, conceptualist. I mean, a different kind of guy. He's into martial arts, break dancing, and amazing at all of them. And he's playing sounds like thata kaleidoscope of influences. I'll be really happy when people get a chance to hear him.
AAJ: So there is no obvious musical or stylistic continuity. They are all taking different approaches. And if I am correct, doing a lot of their own composition?
GO: Absolutely. These people jumped out at me. I hear a lot of music. A lot of new music. People send me things daily. DVDs, CDs, whole passels of people. Even before I started this thing. People just thought I could point them in the right direction or make a recommendation. And sometimes things would jump out at me, but I was powerless. All I could do was make a recommendation. I've been helpful bringing attention to a handful of people, but there are hundreds more that are just as deserving. Today I wish I had the financial wherewithal to help guide the careers of a lot of other people I hear. But I have to be very, very selective right now because our funding is ... measured. [Laughs]
The Business End
AAJ: That brings up a whole other side to launching a label. To accomplish the goals you set out in the mission statement there has to be some measure of commercial success. Is that a new challenge for you?
GO: I've always had a foot in the door of business and finance. Recognize that I'm somebody that was never one of the top ten most wanted in terms of booking and being presented at the major festivals. Even though I was with a great label, I was always turned away by the major promoters and agents because they considered my music too much work or to leftist or too challenging. So everything I've gotten, I've gotten myself.
AAJ: Has that given you the perspective to launch the label and navigate the business side on behalf of yourself and the other artists?
GO: Yes and no. The development of this label was inevitable. When the Blue Note contract ended, where am I gonna go? Especially in the United States. Who's gonna sign me? Concord? Verve? These labels don't have anyone on their roster that sound remotely like me. Obviously, they are not even interested in that sound or direction. So what am I going to do? Crawl back to a two-bit European label that has a minimal distribution?
Basically, I look at a lot of those European labels as mercenaries. They are predatory in nature. They come over here, to New York, with fangs gnashing and they find these innocent, young musicians who are desperate to be documented, who really shouldn't be thinking about that yet and are still developing, and give them a two-bit deal and take 50 to 100 percent of their publishing rights and run back to Europe with an armful of masters that they own for all perpetuity.
They are taking advantage of people. Fattening up their catalogs with ill-gotten projects. Meanwhile, these kids have given up ten or twelve of their best new compositions. It's just absurd. These kids aren't advised to stand firm. It just saddens me. Now you have some CDs that you had to pay for yourself, that no one will ever hear, while some unknown European cat, living in some villa overlooking cypress trees and mountains with snowcapped tips, is enjoying the spoils of your blood, sweat and tears.
Now I know, that's the way it is sometimes. Business is cut-throat. But I just can't take it. So I had to develop a situation where I could help cultivate the business sensibility of some young players, guide them through, answer questions when asked.