June 30th, 2005, 08:00 AM
tulip or turnip?
Saxophonist, composer, producer and educator Greg Osby has made an indelible mark on contemporary jazz as a leader of his own ensembles and as a guest artist with other acclaimed jazz groups fo the past 20 years. Notable for his insightful and innovative approach to composition and performance of original jazz music, Osby is a shining beacon among the current generation of jazz musicians. He has earned numerous awards and critical acclaim for his recorded works and passionate live performances.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Greg Osby began his professional music career in 1975, after three years of private studies on clarinet, flute and alto saxophone. Coming from a vibrant and musical city, Osby showed an early interest in the performing arts and spent his years in secondary school with a heavy involvement in Blues and Jazz groups. In 1978 Osby furthered his musical education at Howard University where he majored in Jazz Studies. He continued his studies at the Berklee College of Music from 1980 to 1983.
Upon relocating to New York, Osby quickly established himself as a notable and in demand sideman for artists as varied as Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie, Jack DeJohnette, Andrew Hill, Muhal Richard Abrams, Jim Hall and Jaki Byard as well as with many ethnic and new music ensembles in the New York area.
In 1985 Osby was invited to tour with Jack DeJohnette’s innovative group, “Special Edition.” It was as a member of this ensemble Osby was able to fine tune the more challenging aspects of his conception in an open ended, no holds barred musical situation. Says Osby, “My musical thinking for performance and composition advanced by light years as Jack was open to my input and was very encouraging in pushing me to to maintain a steady flow of experimentation. It marked a major turning point in my development as an artist.” In 1987, Osby signed his first recording deal with an obscure German label , JMT (Jazz Music Today). With this situation, he felt that he was finally able to document life as he saw it through music. He had free creative reign to do whatever he liked. He recorded four CD titles for that label. Osby signed with Blue Note Records in 1990 and has since recorded fourteen recordings for that label as a leader. From the pulse of the streets and the language of a generation, Osby has sketched numerous musical essays set to a contemporary score using the improvisational nature of Jazz as the connecting thread.
On Public, his new live recording on Blue Note, Osby is joined by special guests Nicholas Payton - trumpet, Robert Hurst - bass, Rodney Green - drums, and a newcomer to the international jazz scene, pianist Megumi Yonezawa.
June 30th, 2005, 08:24 AM
tulip or turnip?
Coming: August 2005
AAJ CD Reviews
Structure by John Kelman
Night Call by Clifford Allen
Night Call by John Kelman
Public by Jeff Stockton
Public by E.J. Iannelli
Public by Jim Santella
Public by Mark F. Turner
Round and Round by John Kelman
St. Louis Shoes by Franz A. Matzner
St. Louis Shoes by Mark F. Turner
Symbols of Light (A Solution) by Scott H. Thompson
Inner Circle by Mark F. Turner
Symbols of Light (A Solution) by Asim Memon
Symbols of Light (A Solution) by Jim Santella
Symbols of Light (A Solution) by David Adler
Symbols of Light (A Solution) by Mark Corroto
The Invisible Hand by John Sharpe
The Invisible Hand by Jim Santella
The Invisible Hand by Mark Corroto
New Directions by Jim Santella
Friendly Fire by Robert Spencer
Friendly Fire by Chris Hovan
Friendly Fire by Mark Corroto
Banned in New York by John Barrett Jr.
Zero by Glenn Astarita
Banned in New York by Glenn Astarita
AAJ Concert Reviews
Greg Osby Quartet at the Village Vanguard by Michael Mellia
The Greg Osby Four by Chris Hovan
A Fireside Chat with Greg Osby (2004) by Fred Jung
A Fireside Chat with Greg Osby (2003) by Fred Jung
Greg Osby Q&A by Terry Perkins
June 30th, 2005, 08:25 AM
tulip or turnip?
Please hold all questions and comments until Greg makes his first appearance.
June 30th, 2005, 09:50 AM
Greg Osby here.
On the road at the moment, but I'm certainly looking forward to fielding inquiries and responding to commentary from fellow musicians and supporters of the arts. Hopefully this will prove to be fun as well as informative.
June 30th, 2005, 11:00 AM
Distorted Fretless Bass
saw you play with the Dead in Camden in '03.
Had you heard much of the Dead before you played with Phil for the first time in what was it, '02?
Any plans to play with Phil or the boys again?
Any experiences you'd care to share from the Dead universe? Thanks.
June 30th, 2005, 11:56 AM
I'm a fan of your music--I'm especially fond of St. Louis Shoes. SO, thanks for the great music!
Question1: A lot of your recordings are in the context of small groups. Do you have any plans to record or writer for larger ensembles?
Question2: You've been influential in nurturing young jazz musicians (Jason Moran comes to mind). How do you view the current scene for aspiring jazz artists, particularly in terms of the major labels' disinterest in jazz? Hopeful or not hopeful? Any names of new artists you'd care to share--folks who give you hope for the future of the music?
June 30th, 2005, 12:05 PM
Speaking of St. Louis, I couldn't help but notice that in your bio St. Louis is described as a vibrant and musical city It must have been a lot different 30 years ago, because right now the Bosman twins and the like brings to mind an image of a scene that is marginally entertaining at a showbusiness level, but very far from being vibrant, or musical Almost anyone with any sort of talent gets as far away as they possibly can, as fast as they can, and likely doesn't come back. I can remember many a night of guys getting off a gig at the Sheldon or the Bistro and asking "so where are the spots to go around here" and being afriad to tell them because 1) there is next to nothing posing as nightlife in St. Louis, and 2) Even if you do manage to find some music or some place to hang out after hours, it's probably jive unless you make it yourself.
I know this sounds bitter... Hehe... Were things much different in the 80s?
June 30th, 2005, 01:25 PM
I see that you played on a recently released album which also included drummer Terri Lynne Carrington. I love her playing--what is it like playing with her?
June 30th, 2005, 07:21 PM
I'm flattered by the many responses on this, the first day! I'll attempt to answer them all.
1. Terri Lyne Carrington is amongst my top 5 favorite percussionists - hands down. She has harnessed the teachings of the master drummers into a most personal and orchestral style. I've known her for over 20 years. Actually, we were roomates in Brooklyn (1985-89) before her move to Los Angeles in 1989. During that time she was very close to Jack DeJohnette and introduced me to him which led to my becoming a member of Jack's group, Special Edition. She'll be living in Boston for the next year as artist-in-residence at Berklee. With her again on the east coast, I'll have a better opportunity to both witness and utilize her gifts. I really can't say enough good things about her. She's family to me.
I left St. Louis in 1978 so I can't elaborate on how the scene was in the 80's. However, between 1973 and 1978 I was fortunate enough to experience a great deal of music from a wide variety of disciplines. Around town, there were several organ trio and small group rooms where jazz was played on an almost nightly basis. I was introduced to a high standard of playing by musicianss like Willie Akins (tenor), Richard Martin (guitar) and Freddie Washington (tenor), to name a few. There were many more and I was just a youngster trying to find my way. It was a good environment for a student. However, things started to change and I felt a dramatic difference in the quality of local music there during my holiday visits from college. Gone were the provocative rooms and players, which gave way to what is now called smooth jazz. In fact, since my departure in 1978 I have only performed in my hometown once with my own group. All requests by my agent to present my band have been repeatedly declined. Go figure.
I do plan to do some large ensemble recordings. I have many pieces complete and ready to go but the live performances of those recordings will probably be limited to the NY area. Taking a large ensemble on the road takes a tremendous amount of resources. Event and festival promoters cry the blues everyday about what they have to pay for small groups so financial support for anything larger than a sextet in generally out of the question without major sponsorship or a generous arts grant.
The current jazz "scene?" is actually in good hands - on a global level. There are enough accomplished players around the world to ensure that the music will be competently performed. The major issue is finding opportunities to present these new talents to the public on a larger scale. Club and festival promoters usually go with the "sure thing" or poll winners who are guaranteed to fill seats. The only thing that is truly guaranteed is that the music will continue to advance at a snail's pace, conceptually speaking, because the artist line-ups at concerts don't change. Many artists refuse to challenge themselves stylistically or dare to hire young unknowns that may provoke them. So they and promoters take the easy route - "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". This sameness in the quality and methodology of recordings, performances and educational techniques has resulted in a grand apathy towards the music and is a definite repellant to potential new patrons.
I was introduced to Phil Lesh by my publicist, Brad Reisau. He told me of an article in Rolling Stone where Phil was asked to list his five favorite recordings. He named one of mine and a meeting was arranged. Long story short, I've performed with them many times since and found each experience to be enjoyable and educational as well.
Please excuse any typos. Jet lag is kicking in.
July 1st, 2005, 02:01 AM
"Public" is a wonderful record. I'm impressed with your music, forward-looking yet rooted in tradition. Your harmonic choices keep the music provocative. Sometimes it's if your bands are barrelling through a series of spontaneous key changes, or spontaneously-directed polyphony. I may not be hearing your approach to changes correctly at all but I love the way it sounds, so could you please elaborate without getting too dry or overly technical.|
Also when is your next record coming out and whos playing on it?
July 1st, 2005, 09:26 AM
Thanks for the thoughtful response!
July 1st, 2005, 09:45 AM
Yes, Mr. Osby, I really appreciate your response. It was more in depth and thoughtful than we had any right to expect! It's a real treat to be able to exchange ideas with a leading musician like this.
July 1st, 2005, 11:34 AM
Clifton, Thanks for your comments on "Public". I'm very proud of that project, as I am of them all. Sometimes my opinions of my own work changes as the years go by. I often reflect on things that should have been done differently - or not at all.
During the recording of "Public", "St. Louis Shoes", as well as during "Banned" I was reinvestigating playing standards and working out alternative methods and approaches to playing them. I do this every few years in an effort to keep my playing grounded as well as a "breaking in" method utilized to introduce new band members to my ideas. It's also good for uninitiated audiences to hear one play familiar material every once in a while. It's far too easy to get caught up in playing one's own material exclusively. I know of many great players who have gone so far "out" with their music that none of it seems related to any jazz precedent at all. This is, of course, every artist's personal choice. No one is obligated to do anything that they are "expected" to do. That's one of the greatest qualities about improvised music.
And yes, there is a great deal of directing that goes on during our performances. I have subtle cues that are set up that everyone in the band is aware of. These transitions may happen at any time, during any composition so the players must be "all ears" during the entirety of the set. Daydreaming isn't an option. Once the cues are learned and the band knows what to listen for, that's when the real magic happens as the way that the compositions are played varies dramatically each night. Fast pieces become ballads and vice-versa, rhythmic modulations, direct transitions, compound metrics and a great deal of harmonic variants and personal approaches - all make for some unpredictable musical journeys. Sometimes the results are disastrous, but the truth is in the recovery. I'd much rather proceed in this fashion than to strictly adhere to hard-lined and inflexible arrangements. Doing so would make performing a job - and it's much too enjoyable too be considered as such.
July 1st, 2005, 11:59 AM
Couple things that have been on my mind to ask, and they are somewhat difficult to put into words elegantly, but:
How do you get to the point of having your own band that is 'out there' so to speak? I mean, anybody can put together their own band, but how do you actually get out into the circuit of recognized club-level groups? Is it because of your resume, because of who you've played with beforehand? It seems like a lot of people judge someone in jazz by who's groups they've been in and who they've played with (sometimes even regardless of talent).
It took awhile to figure out how to break into the scene a bit as a individual sideman, and as I am going through that process I wonder sometimes if I should try to start getting my own group together as soon as I can, or if I should just accumulate as much bandstand experience and resume names as possible, and then worry about it later. I've been leaning towards the side of more experience, but because I play a rhythm section instrument I've also seen a lot of people I respect get caught in the trap of being a perpetual sideman and never really developing their own thing.
Either that or, they never really develop their own group *concept*, so when they DO get their own group they just put it out there like "hire us", make one CD, and then fade away because they aren't really saying anything different as a group... Just another artist writing the "standard modern" music.
So I'm not sure whether it's better to start cultivating and pushing this now, or just log some more experience first. What do you think?
July 1st, 2005, 04:03 PM
Thanks Greg for your prompt and thoughtful response. I had a feeling the cues were a big part of it. It's working, certainly for this listener.
I am a huge Ornette Coleman fan and the way I hear his music, he seeks to create an improvised line of unrestricted melody, with harmonic accompaniment to be adjusted spontaneously. Has your music been at all influenced by Ornette and if so, how?
P.S. My 14-year-old son likes jazz and he's also a fan, particularly of "Public".
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