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Greg Osby

Coming out of Brooklynís M-Base collective (with fellow alto-saxist Steve Coleman), Greg Osby developed organic fusions of jazz with hip-hop and funk. But heís also fronted acoustic quartets and spare, hard-driving trios. Itís his seasoning with the elders of the avant-garde ó particularly Muhal Richard Abrams and Andrew Hill ó that informs Symbols of Light: in the varied textures and dynamics, and in the complex but uncluttered writing for multiple voices.

Osby augments his standard jazz quartet (horn, piano, bass, drums) with a standard classical string quartet (two violins, viola, cello). But this isnít the standard " sweetening " of jazz with strings. He uses his string section to heighten harmonic tension, to provide pizzicato accents, to " comp " like a piano, or to create cyclical long strands of melody while his horn percolates on top. Sometimes the strings lay out while Osby trades a cappella ideas with pianist Jason Moran; sometimes the " jazz " contingent takes off into varied forms of swing while the strings moan and bark. Moran kicks off the loose, pulse-like triple meter of " 3 For Civility, " joined by bass and drums, followed by the theme in the low strings, before Osby enters ó dark-hued and warm-toned ó almost as a supporting player. Call it chamber jazz if you will, but itís that kind of narrative development that gives the whole album a theatrical flair. Itís what distinguishes this breakthrough from the rest of Osbyís impressive body of work, and what puts him a step ahead of the post-bop pack.


Issue Date: August 30 - September 6, 2001