Archive for osby

Blindfold Bootleg Series: Greg Osby

Posted in Improvisation, Musical Influences with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2015 by pogo56

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I consider saxophonist/composer/sonic scholar Greg Osby to be my musical godfather.  He gave me my first big break by hiring me to play in his quintet after he released St. Louis Shoes.    This came at a time when I was thinking about quitting music.    I’ve learned what it means to be on the road and how to survive once you’re there under Osby’s tutelage.   He possesses a deep well of knowledge on musical stylings as well as a highly refined sense of taste and these qualities shine brightly in his playing and composing.  Here’s what Greg had to say after hearing the examples:

Example 1: Marcus Strickland live at the Regattabar Cambridge Ma 2008

1. This tenor saxophonist may be JD Allen. He sometimes plays in trio format without chordal accompaniment and it doesn’t sound very much like an older person. I’m assuming that it’s JD based on the player’s vibrato and attention to tone. I say tone as opposed to sound because everyone has a sound but everyone doesn’t necessarily have a tone, as exhibited by many of the likes of a Don Byas, Stan Getz, Ben Webster, Paul Gonsalves, Hank Mobley, Dexter Gordon, etc… TONE – the main ingredient, And JD has a beautiful tone and a very meaningful way of interpreting music. He some exhibits an admirable amount of patience.

AFTER:  OK, it’s Marcus. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard either him or JD enough to have answered this one correctly, but what I have heard from Marcus validates my response. He also has a beautiful full-bodied tone and appears to be concerned with proper execution and the development of solos via beautiful phrases. His ouput is very broad and lush and yet, still very precise.

Example 2: Myron Walden live at Fat Cat NYC (year unknown)

2. I can’t recognize the player, but his rush to flash lost my interest very quickly. There was little to hold onto, in terms of thematic material and melodic development. In the beginning, there was a brief statement, and the next thing I know all the fireworks were quickly being lit. Listening to music like this is akin to being shouted at for extended periods. It’s great to thing hear or to experience music like this live but it somehow loses it’s impact on recordings, given the references to the Coltrane/Jones dynamic that has been explored and even exploited to no end. It makes one wonder why would anyone seek to frame themselves in such an environment these days when the social and arts climate is so significantly different than when this mode of expression was being developed? It just doesn’t have the same meaning behind it anymore and the overall impact is lessened considerably. Somehow, for me, it amounts to yelling and forcing a point when there is none. Again, the players here are fantastic musicians but I’ve grown weary of this approach unless I’m in the venue when it’s actually happening.

AFTER: This makes sense. Myron is what I respectfully call a convert  – which is to say that I heard him first and know of him primarily as an alto saxophonist. I think that would account for the way he plays tenor. Maybe not. However, it’s easy for me to understand the excessively notey approach because many tenor players who “hear” alto or hiigher pitches in their heads like Stitt and Coltrane, have a tendency towards content bombardment. I am also guilty of this, and is why no one will ever hear me play tenor saxophone publicly, or otherwise. Mind you, playing with lots of notes isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it should be a progressive act. Not an aural assault just several bars in. But, just because it overwhelmed me doesn’t make it improper.

Example 3: Logan Richardson live at the Duc du Lombards Paris 2013

3. This very definitely sounds like Logan Richardson, who does have a very considerate and refined style with a strong sense of purpose in his playing as well as in his compositions. I appreciated the pacing of the build during his solo. It was very relaxed and there was no hurry to rush into a technical display. I also recognize his tone, which has some very personal and appealing characteristics to me. Interestingly enough, as an alto player myself, I must admit that I have a very low tolerance for the output of many, if not most, alto players. Some players have sounds that are very strident and devoid of body or fullness. Not human-like enough for my tastes. Also, the tendency for players to overwhelmingly embrace the discoveries and breakthroughs of the most prominent player of the day represents, to me, a failure to define themselves adequately by developing a methodology that emphasizes the core character in their musical makeup. They resign to playing the role of copyists and parrots, as opposed to crafting a style for themselves. This is one of the primary reasons why most laypersons have the usual throwaway impression that “all jazz sounds the same,” One can’t fully blame them for having such a perception, given the lack of sonic diversity amongst the ranks. At any rate, this is not one of those instances. Logan has successfully done what used to be the normal thing to do, which was to recognize and hone one’s own voice.

AFTER: This was the easiest and most obvious example, as Logan is one of my favorite contemporary improvising artists. He has a great mind and is fearless. It would have been nice to have evaluated a few more altoists during this listening session but tenor is, and always has been, much more popular than the smaller horn. There are many reasons for this, but that’s an entirely different discussion.

Example 4: Ravi Coltrane live at the Jazz Standard 2013

4. More chordless saxophone trio. Again I’m at a loss for who it is. I’ll take a wild guess and say Tivon Pennicott but that’s a shot in the dark. I do appreciate the player’s sense of articulation, which is a characteristic That I find to be missing in the playing of many contemporary players who often seen to slur through every line with no detail to the attack or punctuating elements. Here, there’s a sameness in approach that is shared by many younger players that makes them difficult to identify, as if they are all influenced by the same guy. Proficient many, but hopelessly similar.

AFTER: I’ve always enjoyed Ravi’s playing, and I’m surprised that I didn’t recognize him here. I heard him live at Birdland a while ago and was really caught up in his creativity and dominance on the bandstand and how he navigated around within the forms of his music. This performance wasn’t reflective of anything that I heard that night, although I do appreciate his approach to the instrument. He usually doesn’t play in a manner that one would expect, which gets my attention immediately. Perhaps he wasn’t so inspired during this song or maybe there were other moments that night where he caught fire.

Example 5: George Garzone live at the Museum Boston (year unknown)

5. Without know who it is, I must say that I really like this. Some very good decisions are being made and the player sounds very mature and he makes no effort to impress, although he sounds very proficient. The beginning of the solo has definite Stan Getz inflections, which these days is so rare that hearing this is a breath of fresh air. If only players would dig into the archives and research and study the output of some of the more ignored masterful players of the music, they would find an untapped pool of resources that would separate them from the rest of the pack that has chosen to emulate the popular players of the day. I almost hear a bit of Charles Lloyd in the makeup of this player. Yet another untapped resource worth investigating.

AFTER: I was right about the mature aspects of the tenor playing here, but I’m disappointed in myself for not recognizing George. What he does is always masterful and unique. He has a genuine love of the art and comes with a great deal of passion and information that he can back up theoretically as well as sonically. I can hear many levels of acknowledgement and history in his playing, coupled with his own discoveries and developments. He is one of the important voices and minds in contemporary improvised music.Example 6: Bill McHenry Live at the Village Vanguard Nyc (year unknown)

6. No clue. I don’t hear very many identifying characteristics other than the eighth note feel in the lines. I did like the development of the riff in the beginning, as well as the articulation.
AFTER: I have heard Bill live several times, but even after the reveal I still don’t know enough about what he does to identify him.

Example 7: Tim Warfield live at Scullers (year unknown)7. I can’t identify this player either. It’s interesting because I happen to go out to hear players perform live a LOT, and I thought that I knew the approaches styles and detail of many of the younger cats. However hearing this final player is akin to sampling perfume – in a short while, they all start to smell the same, even if they are amazing. In the case of this listening session, I’ve heard some amazingly accomplished players, but, for me, most of them lack standout characteristics in style, approach interpretation, concept, logic, phrasing and TONE (most important) This isn’t to say they are not good players, I’m saying that there’s not much of a difference between them other than that they’ve all have an exceptionally similar educational makeup and inspirational foundation. They not only speak the same language, but the same dialect and inflections as will, which makes listening to them fine – the first rime.

AFTER: It’s been years since I’ve heard Tim live, and this example shows very few outstanding or identifying markers, if you will. What he’s doing certainly shows accomplishment, but I was waiting for something that really would set him apart from anyone else, and it didn’t happen for me. I’m not referring to something very radical either – perhaps a personally developed technique, conceptual approach, a way of developing ideas and phrases, a very personal tone, juxtaposition of thoughts, etc.. something that would make me do a double take or press rewind. None of my observations are meant to suggest that he is incapable of these things, it just isn’t projected on this cut.

When I hear Ben Webster, Don Byas, Gene Ammons, Paul Desmond, Joe Henderson, Cannonball, Getz, Ben Webster, Young, Hodges, Konitz, etc.. play just a few notes, their identity is unmistakeable. Who they are is not necessarily defined by content, but by a deliberate crafting and cultivation of a trademark tone and a sense of purpose.

Everyone do yourself a huge favor by staying current to Greg’s new projects and live events by frequenting his website.

Selected Discography…

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2011 by pogo56

Here’s a list of records that I’ve either released as a leader or performed on as a sideman. I’ve lost track of some that I’ve played on so if I left one out, please let me know and I’ll add it to this post.

How Some Things Have Happened for/to Me

Posted in jazz trumpet music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2009 by pogo56

I field a lot of interesting questions from young musicians, but one of the questions that I get the most is, “How did you get the gig with_______________”. I’d like to talk about the process that helped me get to where I am right now.

While I was a student at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, I would make it a point to attend as many masterclasses, student recitals, club dates, and concerts as I could. One of most memorable shows for me was hearing the New Life Jazz Orchestra at the Berklee Performance Center. The featured soloists for this show were Nicholas Payton, Roy Hargrove, Jeremy Pelt, and RaShawn Ross. That show and the clinic they gave earlier that day changed my life. From that point on I knew that I wanted to give people the same feeling I recieved from that show after I left.

During my formative years in Boston I did the whole networking thing the best that I could which lead to many gigs and playing relationships that I am very thankful for to this day. Many of the inspiring shows that I went to left me with the dream of playing with players of that caliber in venues big and small. So I ended up studying, listening, practicing, jamming, etc. all my waking hours to the detriment of a healthy social life. I didn’t really participate in any activities that weren’t music-related and most if not all of my friend were/are musicians. I met many of these musicians while playing at Wally’s Jazz Café in Boston. Many of you already know about this club and the importance it has to the scene in Boston and the development of jazz musicians young and old. Wally’s has been a “school away from school” for me ever since I moved to Boston in 1997 and it’s the place where I learned how to connect with people who aren’t familiar with jazz. That experience I could never have gained in music school.

I didn’t grow up with computers at home so I didn’t really get into emailing, websites, and the whole world of technology until my 2nd year at NEC. I began to discover that many of my favorite musicians had websites and email addresses that I could actually contact them through (this was before the age of myspace, facebook, and other networking sites, btw). So around the year 2001 I decided to contact every prominent musician that I dreamt of playing with. This turned out to be a massive email campaign where I ended up contacting about 500 musicians that I was interested in playing with. Of those that I contacted I think I received responses from about 20+ of them. Of those 20 or so responses 2 or 3 of them were positive. One of the emails that I sent out was to saxophonist Greg Osby. At the time he was scheduled to perform at Harvard University and I asked him if it was okay for me to sit in with his band. He had never heard of me so I wasn’t surprised when he said no. I thought to myself that there must be a way to get some of my playing into his ear and the rest of the musicians that I wished to play with. I decided to look into online sites that I could host mp3s of my playing for all to hear. I then came across a music-hosting site, Soundclick, and posted some clips of my playing for all to hear. Mind you this is about a 1 ½ to 2 years after the initial mass email. So I decided to send out another mass email to musicians I dreamt of working with. Of the up to 1,000 emails I sent out this time which included a link to my soundclick page, I must have received about 30 responses. All of the musicians had great words of encouragement for me, but only one musician considered me as a sideman: Greg Osby.

Greg Osby to me is one of the most forward-thinking, history embracing, knowledge-sharing artists around right now. He and Steve Coleman were the founders of M-BASE(Macro – Basic Array of Structured Extemporizations), great collective of thinkers in the music He’s one of the few players of his generation who’s demonstrated a keen interest on younger musicians, a modern-day Art Blakey. Many great players have worked in his band and gone on to have very productive careers, i.e. Jason Moran, Matt Brewer, Eric McPherson, Rodney Green, Damion Reid, etc. I think that this form of apprenticeship is one of the most important experiences any young jazz musician must have in order to become an effective leader.

Greg was impressed with the playing on my clips and offered me the gig with him in support of his current cd at the time which was St. Louis Shoes. I already had that cd and I knew a lot of his music from his previous cds from the time I spent transcribing as a student, so joining this group was definitely a blessing for me. At that time the members of the band were Tommy Crane (drums), Matt Brewer (bass), Megumi Yonezawa (piano) and later James Gordon Williams (piano), Greg on alto, and me on trumpet. We never recorded in the studio, but I recording every gig we did and Greg, Matt, and Tommy played on my debut cd Songbook along with Leo Genovese (piano, Rhodes), Ravi Coltrane (tenor), and Warren Wolf (vibes).

When I was on the road with Osby I learned soo much from him, from dealing with promoters and directors, to getting the best sound out of a soundcheck. It was the first form of on-the-job tutelage that I had ever received and I am forever grateful because it has helped me become a better musician/bandleader/person. He hipped me too a lot of alternative marketing techniques (which I have yet to implement though) and taught me a lot about the business side of the music; all things that I never learned as a student in Boston. The things that I learned on stage will have to be a blog in itself!!

Also a big kudos to my wife Colleen because she has been a source of inspiration to me ever since we first met 7+ years ago. She kept me on the right track when I thought of giving up on the whole musice thing. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for her guidance!!

More to come,

Jason Palmer
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