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Greg Osby: Channel Three

Michael McCaw By

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Channel Three, the first trio album in Greg Osby's now almost twenty-year recording career, is one of challenging, accessible, and incessantly swinging music. In many ways it sits in contrast to anything else in his catalog, but it nonetheless also sounds exactly like the alto saxophonist, due to Osby's indomitable spirit.

Such a unique sound is hard to come by as more and more musicians are finding ways to distribute their music—but Osby's bright tone and note-dense, yet sometimes very languid style, coupled with a unique improvisational and compositional approach, have set him apart for many years. Throughout that time, he has always had a pianist on his side... until now.

Well aware of how challenging the trio context can be, Osby takes advantage of the open space for a less dense musical realm but a complete sound, helped immensely by bassist Matt Brewer and legend-in-the-making Jeff "Tain Watts. Osby chose these musicians for what they could bring to the table in a trio setting, and he was certainly on the money.

Watts is an amazing modern drummer who is constantly engaging, independent, unique, and supportive. "Please Stand By," or truly any of the nine selections, is a case in point for Watts where even a simple repetitive figure evolves every time it is played, in ways that present a sense of discovery and movement. Throughout the entire program he alternates between every surface of his kit, yet he never seems detached from the song or its melody.

Brewer isn't a strict timekeeper either. Sometimes playing in unison with Osby or laying a quasi-M-BASE groove, other times working wholly independently, he certainly should garner some well-deserved recognition following this release. Brewer plays with confidence and a huge tone on both acoustic and electric bass. And while this recording is certainly successful due to the interactivity and talent of these two musicians, Osby is its main force both compositionally and conceptually. As one would suspect, he's full of ideas every second he breathes through his saxophone. His solos always follow a peculiar yet accessible logic, engaging the listener but never letting them predict where he might be going.

Among the many surprises in store for listeners on Channel Three, one of the biggest sonically is the title track, which features Osby on soprano saxophone (also used to beautiful effect on the ballad "Diode Emissions"), but also all three musicians' voices. Their wordless vocalizing serves as a bed that occasionally comes to the forefront in relation to the music's ebb and flow. Brewer once again shines on the electric bass, laying independent grooves but never at odds with Osby either.

One wishes there might have been more music on this release, which clocks in at just under 47 minutes. But all in all, there are so many ideas and joyful musical statements contained in those 47 minutes that there's little reason to complain. Just repeat "Miss Ann," the closing Eric Dolphy composition, and revel in this trio's collective musical harmony.

Visit Greg Osby on the web.


Track Listing: Mob Job; Vertical Hold; Viewer Discretion; Diode Emissions; Fine Tuning; Please Stand By; Channel Three; Test Pattern; Miss Ann.

Personnel: Greg Osby (saxophones); Matt Brewer (bass); Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums).

Title: Channel Three | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


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