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Greg Osby: Channel Three

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Greg Osby’s music does not offer obvious points of entry. It lacks the appeal of direct emotional exposure and is almost never pretty. His alto saxophone tone has a serrated edge; his lines extend or attenuate to their own logic and lurch into sudden hard turns. But you have to trust Osby and stay with him. Then, on pieces like “Mob Job,” you hear solos become fully realized abstract designs that you have never heard before. Instead of prettiness, he sometimes delivers austere beauty.

Channel Three is Osby’s 13th album for Blue Note since 1990, and it is the purest shot of straight-no-chaser to date. It is just his own saxophones (alto and soprano), the prodigious bass of 21-year-old Matthew Brewer and the complex, melodic drums of Jeff “Tain” Watts. There are two covers: Ornette Coleman’s “Mob Job” is freshly definitive, but Eric Dolphy’s “Miss Ann” lacks the stunning intervallic leaps of the composer’s version on Last Date, and Osby plays it on soprano, where his authority is diluted. But the seven originals all work. They have antiromantic, Osby-esque titles like “Diode Emissions,” “Test Pattern” and “Vertical Hold.” Their initial structures often sound like exercises in musical/mathematical problem solving, but Osby stretches them into fascinating free forms.

Originally Published