July/August 2004

Greg Osby: Public, Structure

Fresh off last year's St. Louis Shoes, Greg Osby's most accessible date yet, comes Public, a new live album that features many of the same tunes-"Summertime," "Shaw 'Nuff," and "Bernie's Tune"-and a similar lineup. If you are one of those types that thinks an artist is taking it easy by releasing a live CD instead of a studio recording, then check out Structure (ACT), a fantastic outing in which the alto saxophonist joins forces with drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, guitarist Adam Rogers and bassist Jimmy Haslip.

The Structure band is a long overdue venture for Osby in that it reunites him with his longtime friend Carrington. With a shared history that dates back to the late '70s, it's almost inconceivable that Structure is their first bona fide group effort. "We've always aspired to have a cooperative group, but given the logistics of where we live and the current jazz climate, it was very difficult to make happen," Osby says. "Working musicians have to keep on working. Every day off is income lost."

Fortunately, as Carrington was preparing a European tour in support of her splendid 2002 disc, Jazz Is a Spirit (ACT), something clicked: She decided to use the tour to introduce a new cooperative that featured her longtime friend. Osby and Carrington eventually knuckled down to map out the band's context, agreeing on a quartet featuring guitar and electric bass. Then, it was time to figure out the other members. Carrington had developed a musical simpatico with Jimmy Haslip when the bassist's longtime ensemble, Yellowjackets, was between drummers; she sat in with the band on a dozen or so gigs. "Through those gigs, I developed a desire to play more with Jimmy," she says. "I thought he would be perfect for this group, because I didn't want the group to be too straightahead but with the capability to go into that. When he walks the bass on electric, the music actually feels like it's supposed to."

Structure projects an undeniable cohesiveness that superbly plays to each member's strengths and personalities, as instrumentalists and composers. From Rogers' plaintive tone poem "Columbus, Ohio" and Haslip's avant-gardish "Omega" to Osby's tricky "Facets Squared" and Carrington's propulsive "Mindful Intent," the music's freshness and exemplary execution testifies that Structure isn't some half-hearted afterthought. "This is a true meeting of minds, personalities, intellect and styles," Osby says. "We wanted to represent where we all thought music should have wound up being in the new millennium as opposed to being another warmed-over version of something that already existed in a greater form."

"It's kind of like Buddhism: many in body, one in mind," Carrington says of the group concept. "You can't have a lot of egos involved when you have a leaderless group. You're going to bump heads a little bit, but you at least need have to have good conflict resolution skills and respect for one another. Collectives aren't the easiest things in the world."

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