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A Fireside Chat with Greg Osby

AAJ Staff By

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You have some people that will accept anything that they are fed and then you have some people that can't take it anymore and as a result, I am seeing younger people come to my concerts.
For as long as I have known Greg Osby, he has been searching. Perhaps that is why I admire Osby the man, the searching. Osby has been searching, is searching, and odds are will continue to search. So I really have no business speaking for him and will give the mic to Oz, the man, the myth, the searcher, unedited and in his own words. Although, I will part on this note. Everybody have fun tonight. Everybody Wang Chung tonight.

All About Jazz: New record, new band.

Greg Osby: Jason didn't leave the band.

AAJ: You encouraged him to focus on his own trio.

GO: Yeah, I encouraged him to do so and I wanted to vacate the position and make it available to another younger player who needed an opportunity. Secondly, I reluctantly did this project. I went into it kicking and screaming because I really don't like tribute records or doing songbook type projects. The only reason I consented was because I would radically alter these environments and change the arrangements and customize them to fit my own purposes. That led to the selection process. I wanted to get players who were familiar with this catalog, but who also had characteristics in their playing that would befit the totality of the project. That is why I arrived at calling Nicholas Payton because of the New Orleans discipline of playing in those street bands and brass groups. He was a natural choice. Bob Hurst being the musician's musician bassist, who can and will do anything that he is called upon to do. That was a no brainer as well.

AAJ: We have spoken about avoiding just these major label trappings. Nic has done his share of concept albums for Verve. He comes with a lot of baggage.

GO: Calling Nic was consistent with my declaration New Year's Day that I would seek out players that I had admired from afar for years and years, but we had never shared a bandstand or did anything kind of creative project together. I am getting older and I see these cats in airports more than I do on the bandstand. It is ridiculous. In pervious generations, everyone knew each other really well and played together regularly. It was a common language. Now everybody lives in these bubbles and I don't know Nic's music personally and I don't know Wynton's music personally. Wynton and I played together for the first time two weeks ago. We did a couple of nights in New York and it was just ridiculous. I have known the cat over 20 years and we have never really played together. We talked a lot. This year, I have played with more different people and I have fed off of their information and their energy. That is why Nic came to mind. I hadn't really considered the concept album thing because he was just probably playing by the rules, but sometimes playing by the rules isn't the best way to play because now he isn't on that label anymore. It is all building blocks and stepping stones and certain moves that players make, they won't do again. Hopefully, it is a learning experience.

AAJ: Are you happy with St. Louis Blues ?

GO: Absolutely, I knew exactly what would happen. The players fell right in the pocket and they were exceptionally accommodating and they added the color. It was perfect casting and it was a great opportunity to document some of these classic compositions and classic repertoire with these players. The theme of the record is my upbringing and the logistics of where I am from, St. Louis. I did a play on words and called it 'St. Louis Shoes' as opposed to St. Louis Blues. On the cover there is a photograph of me, three years old, Easter Sunday with these black and white shoes on. I bookended the recording, we opened up with "East St. Louis Toodle Oo" by Duke Ellington and I ended it with "St. Louis Blues." In between are compositions that chronicle my journey as a musician. I think it is a fitting document that details who I am and what steps I have made to arrive where I am now. I am really proud of it. There were some issues with the budget because I try not to go into the record company with these ridiculous budgets. I guess that has contributed to my longevity on the label. That is why a lot of people don't prosper well or long on other labels because they try to gauge the record companies with these big budget jazz recordings that don't sell. They sell over time, but a lot of the people in the upper offices only care about what happens in the first few months. They are like a pop record and you can't look at it like that, but unfortunately, these people aren't fans of the music. Hopefully, it will establish a precedent and more of my peers will collaborate more because that has led to the deconstruction of the jazz scene as we have known it. Nowadays, people won't do a gig or recording unless it pays a certain amount or it represents a certain level of prestige or there is something in it for them. Of course, people have to make a living, but you have to consider the level of work that is being produced and presented. A lot of stuff is overwhelmingly disposable. The right attitude isn't being taken going into these projects. It is all about money and the artists are suffering.


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