Greg Osby: Public

Eric J. Iannelli By

Sign in to view read count
Greg Osby
Blue Note

Alto saxophonist Greg Osby has been releasing about one album per year since signing to Blue Note in 1990, some of which have been contrived and shaky forays into rap, spirituality and other commercial gimmickry. (If you want a mix of rap and jazz, find a copy of Soweto Kinch's excellent Conversations with the Unseen ; if you want spirituality, look no further than Coltrane or David S. Ware.) Osby, a veteran of the M-Base Collective, is at his best live and without a specific creative agenda, as his MiniDisc-recorded Banned in New York (1998) first suggested, and as the aptly titled Public will reaffirm.

The head of "Rising Sign," the first song of this set recorded at New York's Jazz Standard in January of this year, could be interpreted as a thematic statement for the entire disc. Touching various points in a constellation of notes, the head seems to sketch a melody cubistically rather than follow it outright, a technique characteristic of Osby's style and one he will employ repeatedly on Public. The sound is punchy, angular. At its summit it toys with dissonance, as if wheezing with relief. Yet it lingers in the ears like the equally punchy head to Hank Mobley's "New World, Old Imports." Osby seems to be saying that he and his band—trumpeter Nicholas Payton, pianist Megumi Yonezawa, bassist Robert Hurst, drummer Rodney Green—intend over the course of the set to offer challenging music in a manner that won't alienate. And so they do.

Their ten-minute rendition of Gershwin's "Summertime" is hardly recognizable at first. Osby and Payton take turns snake charming before Osby drifts into the first hazy strains and then hands over to his trumpeter, who belts out some confident, jarringly conservative phrases during his solo. Yonezawa, a talent who deserves greater acclaim, acts like an expert typesetter on some of these phrases, contextualizing them in boldface, italics, underline. When Osby returns for his solo, he wanders further and further until he's snake charming again, opening up a perfect opportunity to drift back into the song's hazy strains. Hurst and Green operate in a funky, distinctly percussive role throughout instead of using the brushes and baritone languor more commonly associated with this standard.

As a four-piece, Osby and his band make a loud restatement of the opening theme on "Equalatogram," more punchy, angular stuff that Yonezawa keeps in check with a fluid piano line. It's a strange track, if only because it has the feel of a solo that has been isolated from something larger—an impression enhanced by its abrupt beginning and even more abrupt ending. Dizzy Gillespie's "Shaw 'Nuff" gets a deceptively straightforward treatment that prances the fine line between hard- and post-bop. There are some inspired solos and interplay all around, but Hurst and Green should receive highest kudos for their sustained energy, the tight, intricate framework that provides Osby, Payton and Yonezawa, respectively, with their platforms. The final track, a cover of Billie Holliday's "Lover Man" featuring pop singer Joan Osborne in a guest spot, is carried out in a traditional vein without forsaking the element of challenge altogether.

For a recorded live performance, the volume of the applause is just right: present but never distracting. This was one problem that marred a recent and otherwise impeccable Chesky release. Producers, musicians and label execs take note.

Track Listing: Rising Sign; Summertime; Visitation; Bernie's Tune; Equalatogram; Shaw 'Nuff; Lover Man.

Personnel: Greg Osby: alto sax; Robert Hurst: bass; Nicholas Payton: trumpet (2, 4, 6, 7); Joan Osborne: vocals (7); Rodney Green: drums; Megumi Yonezawa: piano.


More Articles

Read Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight Extended Analysis Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight
by John Kelman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon Extended Analysis Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon
by Doug Collette
Published: February 18, 2017
Read Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix) Extended Analysis Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)
by John Kelman
Published: February 12, 2017
Read The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome Extended Analysis The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: November 27, 2016
Read Nat Birchall: Creation Extended Analysis Nat Birchall: Creation
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "Jasper Høiby: Fellow Creatures" Extended Analysis Jasper Høiby: Fellow Creatures
by Phil Barnes
Published: August 21, 2016
Read "Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)" Extended Analysis Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)
by John Kelman
Published: February 12, 2017
Read "The Traveling Wilburys Collection" Extended Analysis The Traveling Wilburys Collection
by Doug Collette
Published: September 4, 2016
Read "Søren Gemmer: The Lark" Extended Analysis Søren Gemmer: The Lark
by Phil Barnes
Published: March 4, 2016
Read "New Order: Complete Music" Extended Analysis New Order: Complete Music
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: April 16, 2016
Read "Seth Walker: Gotta Get Back" Extended Analysis Seth Walker: Gotta Get Back
by Doug Collette
Published: September 18, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!