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Osby, Greg

Greg Osby

Saxophonist, composer, producer

For the Record

Unplugged

Selected discography

Sources

Greg Osbys 1997 album release, Further Ado, maintains and deepens the acoustic groove he struck with his previous album. With the release of 1996s Art Forum, it seems Osby has come full circle and returned to his stylistic roots. Before these two albums, 1987 was the last time he favored the jazz world with anything faintly resembling an acoustic sound. Thatwason his first album, Sound Theater. Sandwiched between Further Ado and Art Forum, Osby explored new musical combinations including much that was experimental, improvisational, or radical. He combined the rap/hip-hop sound with jazz. Working to fuse jazz with an African-American street-wise sound has added to Osbys reputation for seeking provocative styles of expression. However, Osby is quick to point out that his two latest albums remain connected to his vision of improvisational jazz, and are not a sell-out to improve album sales. Osby told Boston Globe correspondent Bob Blumenthal in a 1997 interview, Im an experimentalist and the things I do are based upon contemporary aspects of sound.

Greg Osby was born August 3, 1960 in St. Louis, Missouri. His first instrument was the clarinet. He quickly graduated to the alto saxophone and also learned how to play the flute. At age 15, he began playing professionally. In 1978 he was granted a scholarship to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C. It was at Howard that his radical nature began to show through. He found himself questioning teachers about why they were studying Bach and Mozart. His path to the world of jazz beckoned even in his early years of musical study. In 1980 he enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in Bostonfinally, he was home! At Berklee he met many like minded musicians including saxophonists Donald Harrison and Branford Marsalis, bassist Victor Bailey, drummer Marvin Smitty Smith, Jeff Tain Watts, and guitarist Kevin Eubanks, among others. During his tenure at Berklee, he traveled regularly to New York City on the weekends and sat in on jam sessions. Word of his talent quickly spend through the New York jazz scene; when trumpeter, Jon Faddis, began asking around for a saxophonist who could read and write music, Greg Osby was the name who came to minds and lips.

Osby auditioned for Faddis in April 1983, and in spite of graduation being just a couple of months away, Osby left Berklee and hit the road with Faddis. In an interview with Willard Jenkins from JazzTimes online, Osby recalled histour with Faddis and jazzgreat, Dizzy Gillespie, who was their guest. I was really into Cannonball [Adderly], but I was trying to embark on a personalized method of playing and composition, improvisation, and delivery. Gillespie encouraged the young musician to persevere in seeking his own voice on the alto saxophone.

For the Record

Born August 3, 1960, in St. Louis, MO; son of Georgina Osby. Education: Attended Howard University in Washington, DC, 1978-80; studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, 1980-83.

Joined the New York City jazz scene performing with Jon Faddis, 1983; toured with Faddis and Dizzie Gillespie; formed M-Base with Steve Coleman; collaborated with Cassandra Wilson, Andrew Hill, and many other great improvisational jazz artists; on JMT released Mind Games, 1989, and Season of Renewal, 1990; signed with Blue Note Records and released five albums: Man-Talk for the Moderns V.X., 1991; 3-D Lifestyles, 1993; Black Book, 1995; Art Forum, 1996; and Further Ado, 1997.

Addresses: Record company Blue Note Records, 304 Park Avenue South, Third Floor, New York, NY 10010. Website Official Greg Osby World Wide Website: www.bluenote.com.

He advised Osby that in spite of negative responses, he should not give up. Other early influences included Herbie Hancocks piece, Speak Like a Child, Charles Minugs Ah Um, Duke Ellingtons Indigo, and the collaborative effort of Miles Davis-Gil Evans.

Seeking challenge has been a theme in Osbys career. Upon diving into the New York jazz scene, he often found himself frustrated by his less adventuresome peers. He sought out other musicians who shared his love of exploring musical styles beyond the standard Tin Pan Alley fare. One of these fellow adventurers into the experimental and improvisational jazz world was fellow alto saxophonist, Steve Coleman.

During the 1980s along with Coleman, Osby formed the group known as M-Base. M-base was an acronym standing for Macro Basic Array of Structured Extemporizations. The original idea, Coleman told Nicky Baxter in JAZZIZ, was to make music that keeps evolving. The groups membership changed over the years. The core members included Jean-Paul Bourelly, guitar; Cassandra Wilson, vocals; Graham Haynes, trumpet and cornet, Osby and Coleman, alto saxophones; Kim Clarke, bass, and Mark Johnson on drums. A literal whos-who of the improvisational scene of the time. His 1993 album 3-D Lifestyles may have shocked some. At least one critic noted that the language used in this hip-hop meets jazz album by Osby perhaps should have carried a warning label because of potentially offensive language.

Two years later in 1995, the release of Black Book continued his exploration of this radical new form of jazz. Perhaps Osbys early life in the city inspired his use of the harsh, descriptive beat poetry to explore the tenuousness of life in the city where drugs were readily available, and death was merely a heart beat away. In Pillars of the Community, the lyrics described the affect the environment had on him. Skeletons stared at me with bulging eyes. I was always close to my piece, but sometimes closer to their cries. His improvisational style continued to thread its way through this work as well. Black Book also came forth from his continued need to always enlarge his vistas and seek new directions.

Whether Osby was playing in a recording studio or jamming live, composing pieces or producing them, his unceasing quest seems to focus on increasing his range and versatility as a performer and composer. Never one to be self-satisfied or to remain long in one place musically, he continued seeking various venues which allowed his full expression of himself musically and personally. Osby realizes that many people fail to appreciate his level of comfort in the acoustic environment, since much of what he played previous to Art Forum and Further Ado were recorded under other artists names, including Andrew Hill, Cassandra Wilson, and Geri Allen.

Unplugged

The 1996 release of Art Forum, returned Osby to his musical roots and allowed him to express himself in his familiar acoustic environment. However, this album also continued his traditionally radical approach to jazz. Osby told Europe Jazz Network online that, Ive always been one to speak my mind, and Ive always been one to play my mind. We see no less than classic Osby on Art Forum. Leaving the work of fusing hip-hop and jazz behind, at leastmomentarily, Art Forum is more about group cohesiveness than showcasing one artist. From the peaceful rendering of Mood of Thought, to the fanciful and lovely rendition of Dont Explain, Osbys accompanied by the thoughtful and artful pianist, James Williams, drummer Jeff Tain Watts, vibist Bryan Carrott and bassist, Lonnie Plaxico. Then in an abrupt change of pace and mood, he goes for his signature slash and burn in Miss DMeena. Although variety among the pieces is apparent, and each piece distinctly stands alone, they appear to be joined together effortlessly into one.

Further Ado, released in 1997, is more completely set in an acoustic environment. Osby knows that many of his fans prefer this style of his work as opposed to the more experimental tangents he explored in earlier releases. His further development in the acoustic arena remains connected to his vision of jazz as improvisation. Further Ado has been well received by jazz lovers and provided Osby with an opportunity to showcase his playing. Osby hand picked the musicians accompanying him. They include Jason Moran, piano; Eric Harland, drums; and Lonnie Plaxico and Calvin Jones sharing responsibilities on bass. Further Ado also features Tim Hagans, trumpet; Mark Shim, tenor sax; Gleave Guyton, flute, alto flute, and clarinet; and Jeff Haynes on percussion.

Osby composed two cuts to honor various mentors. Heard, and Mentors Prose, are two of his favorites, and are in honor of the late tenor saxophonist, Eddie Harris. Mentors Prose at the same time is in recognition of Andrew Hill, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Von Freeman. In an online interview with Blue Note Records, Osby stated that the result of Further Ados combination of artists working together is something of a meta-morphic small band configuration that changes on a per tune basis. I was going for a more captivating project using instrumental colors and timbres. It sounds like hes accomplished his goal. Although each piece stands independently they all meld together into a dramatic expression that surprises Osby by leaving him feeling somewhat exposed and vulnerable. The sensitive composition of nine original pieces, plus the popular Tenderly, in the hands of these talented musicians and guided by Osbys muse leave one believing that Osby has realized his goal of cohesiveness and original expression on Further Ado.

The sound of jazz is alive and well; jamming live or recording, composing or producing, it seems Osbys restless muse will continue to push him forward into uncharted watersmusically, personally, and philosophically. As he told an interviewer on Blue Note Records online, Its a personal challenge for me to always be open to change, to be ever evolving. Because comfort has a complacent sound that goes with it, and I dont want to play that.

Selected discography

Greg Osby and Sound Theater, Watt, 1987.

Mind Games, JMT, 1989.

Season of Renewal, JMT, 1990.

Man-Talk for the Moderns V.X., Blue Note Records, 1991.

3-D Lifestyles, Blue Note Records, 1993.

Black Book, Blue Note Records, 1995.

Art Forum, Blue Note Records, 1996.

Further Ado, Blue Note Records, 1997.

With others

(With Steve Coleman) Strata Institute Cipher Syntax, JMT.

(With Andrew Hill) Eternal Spirit, Blue Note.

Sources

Books

Carr, Ian; Fairweather, Digby; Priestley, Brian, editors, Jazz: the Rough Guide, The Rough Guides, 1995.

Periodicals

Audio, March 1997.

Boston Globe, September 28, 1997.

Downbeat, October 1989, p. 26-28.

JAZZIZ, December 1996.

People, August 9, 1993, p. 27.

Online

http://jp.jazzcentralstation.com

http://musiccentral.msn.com

http://www.allmusic.com

http://www.bluenote.com

http://www.ejn.it

http://www.jazzonln.com

Debra Reilly

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"Osby, Greg." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Osby, Greg." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/osby-greg

"Osby, Greg." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/osby-greg

Osby, Greg

Greg Osby

Saxophonist, composer, music producer

Greg Osby was born on August 3, 1960, in St. Louis, Missouri. His first instrument was the clarinet. He quickly graduated to the alto saxophone and learned how to play the flute. At age 15 he began playing professionally, and in 1978 he was granted a scholarship to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C. His path to the world of jazz beckoned even in his early years of musical study. In 1980 he enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and at Berklee he met many like minded-musicians, including saxophonists Donald Harrison and Branford Marsalis, bassist Victor Bailey, drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and guitarist Kevin Eubanks. During his tenure at Berklee, he traveled regularly to New York City on weekends to sit in on jam sessions. Word of his talent quickly spread through the New York jazz scene, and when trumpeter Jon Faddis began asking around for a saxophonist who could read and write music, Greg Osby's was the name that came to his attention.

Osby auditioned for Faddis in 1983, and although his graduation was just a couple of months away, Osby left Berklee and hit the road with Faddis. In an interview with Willard Jenkins on the JazzTimes website, Osby recalled his tour with Faddis and jazz great Dizzy Gillespie, who was their guest: "I was really into Cannonball [Adderly], but I was trying to embark on a personalized method of playing and composition, improvisation, and delivery." Gillespie encouraged the young musician to persevere in seeking his own voice on the alto saxophone. Other early influences included Herbie Hancock's "Speak Like a Child," Charles Mingus's "Ah Um," Duke Ellington's "Indigo," and the collaborative efforts of Miles Davis and Gil Evans.

After diving into the New York jazz scene, Osby often found himself frustrated by his less adventuresome peers, and sought out other musicians who shared his love of exploring musical styles beyond the standard Tin Pan Alley fare. One of these fellow adventurers into the experimental and improvisational jazz world was fellow alto saxophonist Steve Coleman.

During the 1980s, along with Coleman, Osby formed the group known as M-Base. M-Base was an acronym standing for Macro Basic Array of Structured Extemporizations. "The original idea," Coleman told Nicky Baxter in JAZZIZ, "was to make music that keeps evolving." The group's membership changed over the years, but the core members included Jean-Paul Bourelly, guitar; Cassandra Wilson, vocals; Graham Haynes, trumpet and cornet, Osby and Coleman, alto saxophones; Kim Clarke, bass; and Mark Johnson on drums.

In 1995 the release of Black Book continued Osby's exploration of this radical new form of jazz. Perhaps his early life in the city inspired his use of the harsh, descriptive beat poetry to explore the tenuousness of life in the city, where drugs were readily available and death was merely a heartbeat away. His improvisational style continued to thread its way through this work as well. Black Book also came from his continued need to enlarge his vistas and seek new directions.

Whether Osby was playing in a recording studio or jamming live, composing pieces or producing them, his unceasing quest focused on increasing his range and versatility as a performer and composer. He continued seeking various venues which allowed him to express himself both musically and personally.

The 1996 release of Art Forum returned Osby to his musical roots and allowed him to express himself in a familiar acoustic environment. However, this album also continued his radical approach to jazz. Osby told Europe Jazz Network online, "I've always been one to speak my mind, and I've always been one to play my mind." Leaving the work of fusing hip-hop and jazz behind, at least momentarily, Art Forum was more expressive of group cohesiveness than of showcasing one artist. From the peaceful rendering of "Mood of Thought" to the fanciful and lovely rendition of "Don't Explain," Osby was accompanied by the thoughtful and artful pianist James Williams, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, vibraphonist Bryan Carrott, and bassist Lonnie Plaxico. Then in an abrupt change of pace and mood, he went for his "signature slash and burn" in "Miss D'Meena." Although variety among the pieces is apparent and each piece stands alone, they appeared to be joined together effortlessly into one.

Further Ado, released in 1997, was more completely set in an acoustic environment, but remained connected to Osby's vision of jazz as improvisation. The album was well received by jazz lovers and provided Osby with an opportunity to showcase his playing. Osby hand-picked the musicians accompanying him. They included Jason Moran, piano; Eric Harland, drums; and Lonnie Plaxico and Calvin Jones sharing responsibilities on bass. Further Ado also featured Tim Hagans, trumpet; Mark Shim, tenor sax; Gleave Guyton, flute, alto flute, and clarinet; and Jeff Haynes on percussion.

Further Ado maintained and deepened the acoustic groove Osby had struck with his previous album. With the release of 1996's Art Forum, it seemed Osby had come full circle and returned to his stylistic roots. Before these two albums, the last time he had employed anything faintly resembling an acoustic sound was on his first album, Sound Theater (1987). Sandwiched between Further Ado and Art Forum, Osby also explored new musical combinations, and combined the rap/hip-hop sound with jazz. Such works that fused jazz with an African-American street-wise sound added to Osby's reputation for seeking provocative styles of expression.

In an online interview with Blue Note Records, Osby stated that the result of Further Ado's combination of artists working together is a "metamorphic small band configuration that changes on a per tune basis. I was going for a more captivating project using instrumental colors and timbres."

Osby continued to release a steady string of albums on Blue Note in the late 1990s and beyond. "His outings for Blue Note are always challenging," wrote Thom Jurek in All Music Guide, "always extending one boundary or another in his own idiosyncratic jazz iconography that uses elements of the historical tradition, the mainstream, and the avant-garde in forging that signature." Osby released Zero in 1998 and followed with the live Banned in New York in 1999. "This is jazz in its purest form: spontaneous, direct, and unfiltered," wrote Joel Roberts in All Music Guide, of the latter album. Banned in New York also provided Osby with a chance to revisit the classic songs of Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, and Thelonious Monk.

For the Record …

Born on August 3, 1960, in St. Louis, MO; son of Georgina Osby. Education: Howard University, Washington, D.C., attended, 1978–80; Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA, attended 1980–83.

Joined the New York City jazz scene, performing with Jon Faddis, 1983; toured with Faddis and Dizzie Gillespie; formed M-Base with Steve Coleman; collaborated with Cassandra Wilson, Andrew Hill, and other improvisational jazz artists; on JMT, released Mind Games, 1989, and Season of Renewal, 1990; signed with Blue Note Records, released numerous albums, 1991–.

Addresses: Record company—Blue Note Records, 304 Park Ave. South, Third Fl., New York, NY 10010, website: http://www.bluenote.com. Website—Greg Osby Official Website: http://www.gregosby.com.

In 2000 and 2001, Osby continued to experiment, first releasing Invisible Hand and then Symbols of Light (A Solution). Perhaps the biggest surprise to fans, however, came with the release in 2003 of St. Louis Shoes, an album that re-interpreted the work of early jazz pioneers such as W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" and the Gershwin brothers' "Summertime." Matt Collar wrote in All Music Guide that Osby "achieves a level of creative individuality few of his contemporaries can match."

In 2005 Osby released Channel Three and toured Europe, making stops in Turkey and Estonia. "Saxophonist Greg Osby is a musician who doesn't believe in standing still," wrote Terry Perkins in All About Jazz. In March, Osby sat in with the Jim Hall Quartet at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, and during July he performed at Summergarden with a small acoustic ensemble.

Whether jamming live or recording, composing or producing, it appears that Osby's restless muse will continue to push him forward into uncharted waters, musically, personally, and philosophically. He told an interviewer on Blue Note Records online, "It's a personal challenge for me to always be open to change, to be ever evolving. Because comfort has a complacent sound that goes with it, and I don't want to play that."

Selected discography

Greg Osby and Sound Theater, Watt, 1987.
Mind Games, JMT, 1989.
Season of Renewal, JMT, 1990.
Man-Talk for the Moderns V.X., Blue Note, 1991.
3-D Lifestyles, Blue Note, 1993.
Black Book, Blue Note, 1995.
Art Forum, Blue Note, 1996.
Further Ado, Blue Note, 1997.
Zero, Blue Note, 1998.
Banned in New York, Blue Note, 1999.
Invisible Hand, Blue Note, 2000.
Symbols of Light (A Solution), Blue Note, 2001.
Inner Circle, Blue Note, 2002.
St. Louis Shoes, Blue Note, 2003.
Public (Live), Blue Note, 2004.
Channel Three, Blue Note, 2005.

Sources

Books

Carr, Ian, Digby Fairweather, and Brian Priestley, editors, Jazz: the Rough Guide, The Rough Guides, 1995.

Periodicals

Audio, March 1997.

Boston Globe, September 28, 1997.

Down Beat, October 1989, p. 26-28.

JAZZIZ, December 1996.

People, August 9, 1993, p. 27.

Online

Blue Note Records, http://www.bluenote.com (August 11, 2005).

"Greg Osby," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (August 11, 2005).

"Greg Osby Q&A," All About Jazz, http://www.allaboutjazz.com (September 10, 2005).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Osby, Greg." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Osby, Greg." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/osby-greg-0

"Osby, Greg." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/osby-greg-0