Alto saxophonist Greg Osby is among the foremost jazz artists of his generation. His albums for the esteemed Blue Note label, including Art Forum" (1996), Banned in New York" (1998) and Channel Three" (2005), set a standard for improvisational risk-taking. Osby's popularity is international, and his eye for talent is admirable: Acclaimed pianist Jason Moran first got noticed as a member of his band.
But Osby, a St. Louis native, remains in awe of his role model: tenor saxophonist and local jazz legend Willie Akins.
I saw him perform countless times during my teen years," said Osby, 48. He just stood like a titan to me.
His approach to the saxophone was as if he'd trimmed the fat. Gone were the typical showmanship tidings that a lot of saxophone players are known by. His execution was impeccable. And his sense of swing, his tone — it was everything I wanted in my playing."
Next weekend at Jazz at the Bistro, Akins will perform in Osby's St. Louis Shoes combo. It's a highly anticipated engagement that jazz fans won't want to miss. Not only should the music reflect the sheer range of experience on the bandstand, but also highlight the spontaneity that is the essence of live performance.
Akins, 69, said he used to know Greg when he was coming up as an alto player."