The Greg Osby 4 at Bimhuis, Amsterdam, Holland 4-17-04
Greg Osby's desire to release several albums a year in the old Blue Note tradition is finding life in the most modern way possible.
The alto saxophonist is offering free downloads of more than a dozen full-length live performances from the past several years at his internet site, www.gregosby.com . They feature top-notch sound and some of today's best players in ensembles of varying sizes and styles. The two-hour April 17 quartet performance, the most recent available, covers standards and originals representing a recording career that has ranged from ragtime to hip-hop.
Osby spends much of the evening giving modernist twists to traditional styles, and from start to finish the quartet engages in a coherent exploration of this phasing common to today's better contemporary mainstream performers. Pianist Megumi Yonezawa provides intense melodic support, drummer Damion Reid excels on contemporary groves that avoid stepping on his colleagues' lines, and bassist Matt Brewer offers a post-bop-legend-on-Jolt-cola introspective.
Osby gets things off to a thoughtful but pleasing and accessible start on "Visitation," the only song from the live Public album released earlier this year. His constant shift of phrases and tempos continues as the dominant presence on the slower-paced "Minstrale/Ashes," proving he has moved well beyond the need for repetition and upper-octave tricks to snare an audience.
Osby's funky side emerges in "Alligator Boogaloo," although in this setting he wisely avoids going too near the hip-hop from earlier days. Instead, the entire quartet takes a long look at a simplistic Hancock-like tune and shakes a complex set of modernist statements out of it. The group retains the lively feel while stepping back in time on "East St. Louis Toodle," with Yonezawa in particular excelling at preserving the whimsical mood while giving it a thoroughly progressive wrapper.
Listeners are challenged anew with an extended session of free blowing on the 28-minute "Nature Boy/Six Of One/In A Sentimental Mood," which ranges somewhere between Coltrane and Coleman in discipline and complexity. It is easily one of the most impressive and interactive stretches. The audience gets sent home in proper fashion as Osby starts with post bop and returns to right-here/right-now on the closing compilation of "The Song Is You/Nekide/Big Foot."
All songs are in unprotected MP3 format without any registration requirements or other restrictions, with the eight songs totaling 137.5MB in size. The sound quality is first-rate, since it's a band recording instead of an audience tape.
This concert and the others at Osby's site could easily be sold as a boxed set with a three-figure price tag, and rank at the very top of online music offerings by any established jazz performer in generosity and quality. Appreciative listeners would do well to purchase an album or show ticket, or at least send a note of thanks, letting him and other artists know such offerings can benefit all involved.
Personnel: Greg Osby, alto sax; Megumi Yonezawa, piano; Matt Brewer, bass; Damion Reid, drums.
Tracks: 1) Visitation; 2) Minstrale/Ashes; 3) Alligator Boogaloo; 4) East St. Louis Toodle; 5) The Jitterbug Waltz; 6) Nature Boy/Six Of One/In A Sentimental Mood; 7) The Song Is You/Nekide; 8) Nekide (cont.)/Big Foot.