Blue Note Records
The ostensible reason for making a live album is to capture the excitement of a live performance, correct? So, what if the performance isn't all that exciting? Greg Osby's latest, Public (Blue Note), was recorded onstage at New York City's Jazz Standard this past January, and while it's good, you get the feeling that it could have been better. That "anything-can-happen-and-probably-will" feeling common to the best live albums just isn't there.
Osby plays very well on Public; his phrasing seems a tad more rough-hewn than usual, and his reach occasionally exceeds his grasp in the way of the most adventurous players. Group-wise, however, few chances are taken, few crises averted-and what's a good live album without a little peering out over the abyss? Drummer Rodney Green mixes it up, and bassist Robert Hurst is an excellent groove-maker. Pianist Megumi Yonezawa's work is interesting but problematic. He's an inventive player, but he seriously overdoes the way-behind-the-beat, Andrew Hill-type rubato thing; by the time the penultimate track, "Shaw 'Nuff," comes around, I'm starved for a bar of straight eighths. Trumpeter Nicholas Payton may not be the world's most incisive improviser, but he matches Osby in terms of fire and that's a good thing. Not so good is an out-of-her-element Joan Osborne, who shows up on "Lover Man" for no apparent reason. For a lesser artist this one might be exceptional, but I hold Osby-and Blue Note-to a higher standard. Maybe next time they should hide the mikes.