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Greg Osby: Zero

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Saxophonist/composer continues to reach new heights as he probes deeper into the traditional of avant-post bop. Harmonically denser, rhythmically more complex, and melodically more elliptical, Zero finds Osby investigating new tonal palettes as he pits Rhodes piano, Hammond B3 organ, and guitar against alto saxophone, drums, and bass. With each new recording since his landmark, Art Forum, Osby’s playing has decidedly become less forced. His biting attack and angular phrasing is still intact, but on the past three recordings, he’s displayed a Shorter-esque joviality to his playing. There’s still a faint hint at MBASE’s odd-meters as one the prismatic, “Interspacial Affair,” but he wonderful displays his compositonal knack for introspective bop as on the Monk-inspired “Minstrale” and billowing balladry on “Nekide.”

Where many would be comfortable using the organ as a routine pillar for a soul-jazz outing, pianist Jason Moran approaches the instrument, well as a pianist, but with a fractured Andrew Hill leaning with echoes to Lennie Tristano. On the sly drag blues, “Penetrating Stare,” Osby’s white-hot tone and quicksilver notes glides elegantly over Moran’s jabbing organ chords. The closing, “Concepticus In C” finds Moran in a post-Unity Larry Young mode as he swarms around Osby and guitarist Kevin McNeal circuitous lines. Avoiding the pitfalls of standard bop or aggressive structuralism, Zero integrates the the best of both worlds without canceling them out.