The capital is hotting up as the EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL JAZZ 8: BLUES FESTIVAL comes to town. Over the next five pages, The List talks to some of the stars and offers a day-by-day guide to all the gigs across the city.
Edinburgh International Jazz & Blues Festival
Greg Osby was a pioneer in jazz-hip hop fusion, but the saxophonist is just as happy to turn to the deep jazz tradition
for his inspiration. Words: Kenny Mathieson
Greg Osby’s music has always shown a distinctly exploratory bent. The saxophonist was the first of the current generation of top young American jazz musicians to explore jazz-hip hop fusion, beginning with his album 3-!) Life Styles in I993. Osby attempted what he saw as a ‘true fusion record‘ rather than a half-way compromise. and set a template for the likes of Branford Marsalis and Courtney Pine in the process.
‘l’m a born experimentalist. and I like to see what these experiments will yield. I did it first. and I caught the most heat. because there was really no outlet — the hip hop clubs just wanted two guys tip there hollering into microphones, and the jazz clubs definitely didn‘t want to see some people rapping. So we had two years off the jazz scene looking for alternative venues, and we shared the stage with a lot of brim: ﬁde hip hop acts.
‘lt reinforced my sense of timing, because hip hop is primarily rhythm; when my DJ mixed my records on stage, they would vary every night in tempo and tuning, so I had to create what I call zones of improvisation that were very different from the melodic-harmonic basis of jazz. It ran its course for me. but I’ve carried a lot of that forward into the way we play now.’
Osby’s return to an acoustic jazz setting in 1995 is reflected in albums like Art Forum, Zero and Banned In New York, a lo-fi live album recorded on mini disc during a club set by drummer Rodney Green. lt represented a radical departure from the saxophonist’s usual meticulous studio methods.
‘Rodney was new to the band, and he made the tape to critique his own performance. He said I needed to check it out, and I thought it
'I wanted to step back and step forward at the same time. The battle has an important place in jazz history, but it has also been the source of innovation.’
was happening. Bruce l.und\'all at Blue Note was real enthusiastic — he‘s been on my case to do a live album for years. but l don‘t really like contemporary live recordings because they sound too sterile. This was different — it‘s a real vivid snapshot of the band. I've always been a big fan of the old Charlie Parker airshois from the Royal Roost and Birdland. and this gives me that same feeling of real close proximity.’
For his latest album. ()sby has resurrected the historic concept- of the saxophone battle on the slightly tongue-in—cheek Friendly Fire. a collaboration with Blue Note label mate Joe Lovano.
‘I wanted to step back and step forward at the same time. The battle has an important place in
jazz history, but it has also been the source of
innovation. Battle is a figurative term. of course. but that interaction can push you to places you never thought of going. I also wanted to resurrect that old Blue Note thing where all the cats would play on each other‘s albums. and there was a conceptual line running through the label that came out of musicians fraternising on and off the bandstand.‘
The Greg Osby Quartet play at the Liquid Rooms, Fri 30 Jul, 8pm. Greg Osby plays with Ingrid Jensen at The Counting House, Sat 31 Jul, 10.30pm. Friendly Fire is out now on Blue Note Records.
Bobby Watson The Hub: Sun 1 Aug, 8pm.
Bobby Watson was a regular visitor to Scotland in the early 90$, playing memorable gigs with the wonderful 29th Street Saxophone Quartet and his own Horizon quintet, as well as a stint as Composer in Residence at the Glasgow International Jazz Festival in 1994.
The saxophonist disappeared from view for a while, but returned earlier this year for concerts with the Paul Harrison Trio, a prelude to a much broader ranging series of projects for the Jazz Festival. These include playing with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra on the opening night, a gig as part of a Tommy Smith Sextet that promises to be one of the highlights of the Festival, and a meeting with tenor saxophonist David Sanchez (see listings for details).
All mouth-watering prospects; but the centrepiece of his contribution to the Festival will be The Year Of The Rabbit. Nothing to do with wildlife — Rabbit was the nickname of the great alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, although he was also known as Jeep, giving rise to tunes like ’The Jeep ls Jumpin" and ’Jeep's Blues'.
Hodges was one of the most famous of Duke Ellington’s great soloists, and a crucial component of his band over several decades. He did leave for a while, but like several other illustrious Ellingtonians, soon found his way back into the fold. Watson‘s fascination with Hodges is long-standing. He first put together this tribute with a nine-piece band way back in 1987 in New York, and its revival will make an appropriate contribution to the Ellington centenary celebrations. (Kenny Mathieson)
22 Jul-S Aug 1999 ms LIST 31‘