Thursday, 3 January 2008

Greg Osby...

After the recent posting in which I declared this CD to be best new release of 2005, I thought it was only right to now put up the actual review.

I went on at length in the earlier posting, almost apologetically, to give the many reasons why my opinion should be taken with a pinch of salt. Listening to this CD again this afternoon, it remains fine music and as good a representation as any of how today's best jazz should sound.

Whatever the vagaries of my subjectivity, you can't afford to miss it. My 'tune in to Channel Three' remark in the closing sentence is nothing more than 'hack' writing at its worst. More 'viewer discretion' was clearly required.

Worse still, the same CD also appeared in the top three of my 'Best of 2006' list. I may go back to my 2004 list - perhaps it's there too despite being recorded in February to March 2005?

Clearly I need to get my act together and focus on the basics in future - that includes knowing which year we're living in, although I've always been skeptical of absolute certainties in this area, with so many calendar systems competing for authenticity. Personally I've always been attracted to the simplicity of the Julian Calendar and am at a loss to understand why so many people gainsay Caesar.

Still, a focus on the basic isn't bad for a New Year's Resolution, is it?

Channel Three
Blue Note Records (7243860672 2)

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

Greg Osby (as/ss); Matt Brewer (b); Jeff “Tain” Watts (d), (Feb to March 2005).

As one of today’s pre-eminent jazz musicians, any reviewer tackling a new recording by Greg Osby is assuming a pretty onerous set of responsibilities. It wasn’t always that way, his early M-Base experiments distinctly polarising critical opinion and appealing to a far narrower fan-base. Although sympathetic from the outset, I was always more of a Steve Coleman man. It is fascinating to reflect just how differently both men have subsequently developed without either having abandoned their shared angularity. Osby, it is fair to say, has moved closer to the centre, tackling the jazz tradition from a more expansive, though avowedly uncompromised, platform. His is now the more acoustic music, and the relative neo-trad of recent projects St Louis Shoes and Public oozed maturity and poise.

Channel Three takes those same qualities further, and the piano-less format adds fresh openness to the music. Still ordered in the very much familiar Osby style - spiky themes, oblique lines and post hip-hop grooves - Channel Three could almost be the perfect distillation of his career to date. Compositions by Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy bookend seven new Osby originals, all given titles inspired by the world of broadcasting.

A fast romp through “Mob Job” shows that Osby isn’t afraid to tackle his elders on their own ground. The sheer length and logic of Osby’s lines and his many personal glisses all confirm what a smart and individualistic player he‘s become. Moving into his own compositions I’m struck by just how much his M-Base experiments continue to inform the present. Now in his forties, Osby seems to be unshakeably set on a course of continual self-renewal, refining his style whilst retaining identity. The title track is the most overtly backwards nod, deploying electric bass and wordless vocals to sound remarkably like the Osby from 1989’s Season Of Renewal (JMT). “Please Stand By” is a structured burnout with the magnificent Watts, iron logic never allowing the slightest hint that things may careen out of control. The tone poetry of “Diode Emissions” and the off-kilter swing of “Miss Ann” show an equally confident voice emerging on soprano. “Test Pattern” pits his majestic alto against a muscular locked groove and could only be the more ebullient latter day Osby.

This trio must be his most flexible and expressive vehicle to date, and, at the risk of sounding like a commercial break, you should tune in to Channel Three now to avoid missing something extremely important indeed.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, January 2006)

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