Tag Archives: greg osby

Jim Hall @ Birdland, Weds-Sat

The iconic guitarist’s sense of drama is keen, but artistically couched in the kind of muted narration that centers on all sorts of whispers, sighs and shadows. He needs just a handful of notes to melt your heart. Joey Baron has long been his most simpatico drummer, and the wily excursions of Greg Osby’s sax have occasionally given Hall new routes to follow as well. Along with bassist Steve LaSpina, they’re both part of this week’s ensemble.


Marty Ehrlich & Greg Osby: In Traning

Fell asleep to “After The Rain” last night. Fun to seen so many Coltrane nods in the last few days. Yesterday, of course, was the great one’s birthday. Lately I’ve been unpacking ancient interviews, and came across chats with Wayne Shorter and Sonny Rollins about their thoughts on Trane’s approach. Here are two more from that era, the late 80s. Marty and Greg had spent lots of time considering the tenor saxophonist’s impact on jazz, that’s for sure. Think I’ll add Eugene Chadbourne’s thoughts to this tonight.


I once said that Trane had a harmonic density. I didn’t mean it in a “cluttered” sense, I just meant he had a whole lot of options. A lot of players exhaust their options quickly. Coltrane could hold your interest by just playing a vamp, or some modal stuff. He had more resources; he studied a lot more. He was more of a searcher, he never stagnated, he never stayed in one place for too long. To me, the main thing he represented was change. When his peers, or others of his generation, got hip to what he was doing, he was off into another thing. No idle time. Those are things I’m interested in.

There are a lot of people now who are trying to adhere to old principles, old ideas, and establish those as modern day traditionalism or whatever, and that’s cool if you want to preserve the things you think are jazz. But I don’t think there are any dictates or prescribe methods people should have in their playing. Trane knew that.

I heard him when I was still listening to funk. I guess it was around ’74 or so. I hadn’t been playing for more than two years, and we had a little funk band. I’d play my little funk licks on top of “Giant Steps.” I didn’t know any of his musical logic, but I could enjoy it. I knew it was bad, and I knew one day I wanted to get with that. That’s when I discovered Charlie Parker, too. I’d been listening to Ronnie Laws, David Sanborn, and Grover. But I was drawn to the magnetism and density of what Bird and Trane were doing. They were playing a whole lot of notes.

Jazz is about versatility. You’re supposed to derive stuff from all sorts of sources. I hear some players today who are so conservative they could be on Reagan’s staff. The music isn’t really progressing right now because people are afraid to cross a few lines.


Coltrane seemed to be one of those artists who, besides his incredible popularity and meaning to those who listened to jazz and paid attention to black culture in general, was someone who  commanded the attention of many people who don’t listen to jazz. A couple of things made it happen. It’s interesting because he wasn’t a commercial artist in the sense of someone reaching across boundaries today; he was very serious and at times played very difficult music. A lot of that had to do with the times. His music certainly reflected the energy of the ’60s. I’ve found an interesting parallel between him and Bela Bartok: within their respective cultures they represented a few of the same things. People who didn’t listen to contemporary music often listened to Bartok. So here are these two artists who communicated beyond the style they played in. Both were very innovative, expanding the language of their idiom, but at the same time used traditional and folk materials in their music. Radical conservatives, really. They both had visceral emotions with involved processes, so they grabbed you intellectually and emotionally in a way that doesn’t often happen. A Love Supreme was a gold record. It’s very hard to think of a record of that intensity being a gold record in this day and age. People wanted a bit more seriousness at that time. To me he was an example of what a committed artist could be.

He was very consistent. I like all his stuff. At the end of his life, around the time of Expression, you can hear new areas of time, along with some very beautiful harmonic motion. Consistent definitely, maybe a bit obsessive. We hear his long solos, and we’re more used to shorter ones these days.

Everyone has to play out of their own psychology. I’ve never known Trane to play anything funny or tongue in cheek, like Sonny Rollins would. What we learned from him is how hard he worked to find what he had to do. Even though he was a part of the mainstream in a way that Ornette and Cecil never were, he still had to find his own way, which isn’t easy. Everything he played sounded like he had lived through it, like he had felt it first.


Facebook tells us it’s Greg Osby’s birthday. Hat’s off, G. The Village Vanguard sched tells us the saxophonist is playing there next week. Hat’s off, G. Here’s a blab I wrote about him a couple years ago. And what about that video clip above? Yikes! 

The notion of group unity is what makes Greg Osby’s Quartet such joy to behold. The middle-aged alto saxophonist has a distinctive – some say odd – way of scripting his original tunes, but because he’s schooled several younger players over the last decade, his music sounds both singular and natural. I think that second designation is crucial when it comes to enjoying jazz. Vanguard musicians often have keen ideas regarding composition or instrumentation, but the craft needed to give the music its balance is missing. Osby’s a forward thinker who concocted a mildly peculiar funk-inflected rhythmic scheme back in late ’80s, and then stayed in the lab until all the rough spots were gone – a heroic move, methinks. His ensembles are constantly changing, but each has been a gripping forum for musical patterns both skewed and straight. Mysterious, compelling, and unusual. With Osby’s stuff, you never know what’s coming next.

Greg Osby’s Birthday Band

Love this duet between Greg Osby and John Abercrombie. The saxophonist is celebrating his 50th birthday by leading a new group at the Vanguard this week. Skittishness is part of his art, and it keeps everyone—his bands, his audiences—on their toes. After a quarter century of refinement, though, the M-BASE lingo he helped birth has a rounded feel. The rhythms are still full of the clever juxtapositions that keep the music crackling, but they integrate with the solos so well that clarity is omnipresent. This band is filled with players – pianist Marc Copland, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington – who know what’s what. The Checkout has a great interview with Osby, as well as a live set from the Vanguard’s first evening.

Out and about in NYC this week? You should also stop in to see Ethan Iverson & Mark Turner , Ivo Perelman’s trio, or  the Sharp & Ribot duets as well.


Miles Davis, Miles In the Sky (Columbia)

The David Wax Museum, Carpenter Bird

Rebecca Martin, When I Was Long Ago (Sunnyside)

Wavves, King Of The Beach (Fat Possum)

Joe Morris/Luther Gray, Creatures (NotTwo)

John McNeil, This Way Out (OmniTone)

Bill Frisell, Beautiful Dreamers (Savoy)

Guillermo Klein, Domador De Huellas (Sunnyside)

Shelby Lynne, Tears, Lies & Alibis (Everso)

Etienne Charles, Folklore (EC)

Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green, Apex (Pi)

Ernest Tubb, Let’s Say Goodbye Like We Said Hello (Bear Family)

Joe Morris/Matt Shipp/Marshall Allen, Night Logic (RogueArt)