STLJN Saturday Video Showcase: A Greg Osby Sampler


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This week, let's check out some clips of saxophonist, composer and St. Louis native Greg Osby, who will be returning home to play Wednesday, December 14 through Saturday, December 17 at Jazz at the Bistro.

Osby, 51, first left St. Louis in 1978 to study at Howard University, and later Berklee College of Music. He began gaining recognition in the 1980s through his work with veteran leaders such as drummer Jack DeJohnette, pianist Andrew Hill, and others, as well as with peers including saxophonist Steve Coleman and others in the M-Base Collective. Osby launched his career as a solo recording artist in 1987, and since then has created a substantial body of original music-17 CDs worth—exploring different concepts and using various instrumental lineups.

Having nurtured the early careers of players such as pianist Jason Moran and vibraphonist Stefon Harris, Osby these days continues to work with young musicians, and has returned to Berklee as a teacher. And after a 14 year relationship with Blue Note Records, in 2008 he also started his own label, Inner Circle Music, to release his own recordings and those of other artists.

Given his wide range of interests, it's difficult to represent the full spectrum of Osby's music in just a few clips, but today's selections should provide at least a solid introduction. We start out up above with some footage from Osby's 2010 stand at NYC's fabled Village Vanguard, with a band that included pianist Marc Copland, guitarist Nir Felder, bassist Joseph Lepore and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. The clip begins with the theme and alto solo from Osby's composition “Please Stand By," then cuts to a full length performance of Copland's “Autumn Wind."

Down below, there are three clips from Osby's performance at the 2009 Montreal Jazz Festival with a band including LePore, Felder, Adam Birnbaum (piano), Mike Pinto (vibes), and John Davis (drums). The songs are Osby's “Vertical Hold," Thelonious Monk's “Ask Me Now," and Pinto's “Tranya."

Below that, there's an excerpt from a 2004 performance of the standard “Jitterbug Waltz" in the UK. Next, you'll see part of a show from 2000 at the Knitting Factory in NYC, featuring a young Jason Moran on piano, plus Liberty Ellman (guitar), Vashon Johnson (bass) and Derek Phillips (drums). The final clip is a freely improvised duo with guitarist John Abercrombie that Osby recorded a couple of years ago for the “Solo Sessions" series at the Music Gallery in Toronto.

For more about Osby, check out NPR's coverage of his 2010 week at the Vanguard, including an archived live broadcast and interview. Also worth a look are these two interviews—one from 2008, the other from 1995—done with jazz journalist Ted Panken for radio station WKCR.

And for a very different perspective on Osby as a collaborator, check out this interview done after he played some gigs a few years back with former Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh and Friends. For still more, Osby's website has links to a selection of older interviews published between 1999 and 2003.

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
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