From the jazz sounds of his birthplace in St Louis to his present home in New York, the new recording St. Louis Shoes
allows the listener to musically walk in the footsteps of one today’s most distinctive jazz saxophonists: Greg Osby. The nine compositions chronicle different composers and styles that have influenced the artist. As on his recent efforts Inner Circle
and Symbols of Light,
the music continues to thrive and encompass a crisp personality.
For the new recording, Osby has partially set aside his composer’s hat and explores what he terms as O.P.M. (Other People’s Music). The compositions feature well known classics such as Duke Ellington’s “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” as well as the obscure Lieber-Stoller standard “Bernie’s Tune.” Whether O.P.M. or not, the music is assuredly given the Osby signature, with its creative flair and musicianship. His alto sax voice is impeccable as he continues to deliver sharp notes and complex solos. His cool and unpredictable arrangements shine on compositions such as “St Louis Blues” with its slowed tempo, and the nostalgic “Summertime” which undergoes a surreal blues and jazz transformation. One of the quiet highlights is Cassandra Wilson’s “Whirlwind Soldier,” which demonstrates the depth and simple beauty of Osby’s approach.
All this is carried out with a newly assembled cast of young and talented musicians who find new roles in each setting. Drummer Rodney Green takes charge with taut and rapid reflexes on the Dizzy/Bird classic “Shaw Nuff.” Pianist Harold O’Neal impressively impersonates and shows high skill on Thelonious Monk’s “Light Blue,” while bassist Robert Hurst provides some beautiful bow work on the passionate “Single Petal of a Rose.”
The surprise guest on the recording lies in the most capable hands of trumpeter Nicholas Payton. He provides the right components to explore the creative avenues for Osby’s reinterpretations. Whether dueling with Osby’s angular alto notes on the aforementioned “Bernie’s Tune” or providing ever-smooth lines on the multi-layered “Milton On Ebony,” Payton’s voice makes a pleasant addition to the music: Music that combines history, presence, and newness.
Personnel: Greg Osby - alto saxophone; Nicholas Payton - trumpet, fluglehorn;