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Greg Osby: Banned in New York

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Those who view Wynton Marsalis and the young lions as mainstream jazzmen rather than the reactionaries they are will probably consider Osby some kind of avant gardist. Actually he’s a creative but pretty traditional alto sax player whose style is rooted in the playing of boppers and post-boppers. He doesn’t sound quite like anyone else, however, on this CD recorded live at what the press blurb describes as “an undisclosed New York City entertainment establishment.” The music was captured “in stylized low-fi” by a mini disc recorder in front of the bandstand “in order to capture the club and the band as it was.” Sort of like Jerry Newman cutting discs at Minton’s in the early,40s.

The CD contains pieces by Sonny Rollins, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker as well as Osby’s unusually contoured original “13th Floor.” He’s heard in a quartet setting with pianist Jason Moran, bassist Atsushi Osada and drummer Rodney Green. A skilled player, Osby’s always thinking; even at the fastest tempos he seems in control, and resists the temptation to go on automatic pilot. Like Rollins, he fragments his lines unpredictably, often demonstrating a compositional approach to improvising, although he can also eat up the changes with long lines a la` Sonny Stitt. He’s got a small but penetrating and attractive tone. Moran blends ideas from various sources from the Bud Powell school through Red Garland, McCoy Tyner and several late 19th and early 20th century composers. He’s a fluent, imaginative soloist with a nice sense of textural and dynamic variation.