Preview/ Interview: Greg Osby (LJF Pizza Express Nov 11th)


I interviewed Greg Osby by phone. We talked about his eagerly-awaited return to London next week:

Alto saxophonist Greg Osby, now 50, a major figure on the New York scene, used to a regular visitor to London, but has not been here for several years. “I can’t remember exactly when, but its at least five.” He last came here, he told me this afternoon from a hotel room in Barcelona, when Ronnie Scott’s was still under its old management.

Osby is currently touring Europe with a quintet whose the tour started in Cork, has been playing to packed houses, and will culminate at the end of next week with appearances in the UK: the Cross in Birmingham on Wednesday 9th, Watermill in Dorking on Thursday 10th, and two shows on the opening night of the London Jazz Festival at Pizza Express Dean Street next Friday 11th.

The first show is virtually, maybe even fully sold out. The second show has places.Musicians and students get a five pund discount (£15 instead of £20)

Greg Osby says he has found the experience of playing with this group “enlightening. I never do pick-up situations, but all of the guys here came highly recommended. And from very first hit it was obvious to me that this was good decision.” Working with younger players reminds him of the time when he was being brought on, through working with the likes of Bobby Watson and Kenny Barron. This is a parallel situation, where he has moved to the role of the older figure:”The efficiency of players has increased exponentially since I began”,he reflected.

Michael Janisch told me that this tour with Osby has been one of the “steepest learning curves in my career in music. He’s been hipping us to find different ways of playing, never to be found in the same place. We’re playing diferent tunes every night, tunes that aren’t played that often. Greg plays a wholly different thing every night, he has a huge range of things he can do, all the things he’s been practising over the years, its amazing . He says things like : ‘tonight I’ll be on [intervals of] SIXTHS’. It changes the game. “we’re being pushed to the limit, and at the same time given a sense of renewal”, says Janisch.

On piano and keyboards is Cuban-born Aruán Ortiz. Ortiz was a fellow Berklee-ite with Janisch, has lived in Spain and is now in New York where he is busy, including a regular seat with Wallace Roney’s band. Trumpeter Reynald Colum is Spanish, and is possibly the leading jazz trumpeter in Spain.

A player whom Janisch hadn’t played with before this tour is drummer Rudy Royston. A regular fixture in bands led by Bill Frisell and Dave Douglas.. Janisch confesses to have been bowled over by having Royston as his rhythm section co-conspirator, and can’t wait to work with him again: “Rudy is just explosive. He’s now definitely one of my favourite drummers.”

The Pizza Express gig will also be a landmark passed for Janisch. It will be his last residency at PizzaExpress Dean Street.

pizzaexpresslive.co.uk – see concessions for students and musicians

Categories: miscellaneous

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