Public – Greg Osby
Blue Note Records 7243 5 97683 2 8
Though hardly groundbreaking, Greg Osby's Public is a solid work, full of artful improvisation and dynamic group interplay.
And that, in itself, is a virtue often just as rare as any quality labeled "groundbreaking." Osby's 12th record for Blue Note, and second live date for the classic imprint, is a consistent journey through seven strong tunes, culminating in a tasteful guest spot by soulstress Joan Osborne; the record maintains a finite mood throughout, and the musicians cultivate magic whenever they explore that dream-like atmosphere.
Additionally, Public captures a special band at a special point in time. Like any great live recording, Osby’s newest release is more than just a good listen: it documents a group of musicians who have put in the time necessary to establish that certain "something."
Think Yusef Lateef's Live at Pep’s, the Art Blakey Quintet’s A Night at Birdland series, or any number of live dates by Trane or Miles. These bands were killin’, and their incendiary performances warranted documentation.
Osby's current group has no place in the same league as, say, the Pep's band, or Davis' Live at the Plugged Nickel quintet, but the vibe of this record can be traced right back to these seminal recordings.
And not unlike the events that precipitated each of these classic sessions, a great band took the stage at New York's Jazz Standard last January, and what was captured on tape is well above par.
The disc opens with Osby's own "Rising Sign," a nearly ten minute jaunt through Monksville. Pianist Megumi Yonezawa does his best Thelonious, and really hits the nail on the head; Robert Hurst and Rodney Green, on bass and drums respectively, support their comrade with startling telepathy. Osby's solo here is full of dirt and grit and intensity; the leader's tone is unmistakable in all of its filthy, fluid grandeur.
Next up is a take on the oft-covered "Summertime" and, fortunately for the listening audience, Osby and company have something fresh to offer on this tune. The saxophonist shares the front-and-center here with trumpeter Nicholas Payton, and the pair play really well together. Payton, like Osby, is a man who knows how to get down, and the two enter some seriously funky territory on this cut. Payton's solo section is thick with New Orleans gumbo, and very loose. His lines fly here and there but always touch down in the swamp.
Payton also shows up for a romp through Diz and Bird country on "Shaw Nuff." The trumpeter, Osby and Yonezawa deliver great solos, and the band really gels in support of these improvisations. This cut would've made its authors proud.
The disc concludes with "Lover Man," and Osborne really outdoes herself here. It's clear that she's studied Billie's take on this tune, but when she coos the line "I'd give my soul just to call you my own," she makes the piece hers. Osborne's voice is a fountain of soul and emotion, and she knows how to make the listener taste every lyric.
Go out and pick up Public. It’s nothing new, but man, is it good.