Greg Osby – Symbols of Light

Symbols of Light
Greg Osby
(Blue Note – 2001)
by Phyllis A. Lodge

Mystical, super-progressive and pleasantly unpredictable. Greg Osby’s trio (with strings) on his Symbols of Light (A Solution) is a refreshing stop in the infinitely complex realm of music. Saxophonist Osby opens with 3 For Civility, inspired by Chicago tenor saxophonist Von Freeman. So accurately typical of Von’s musical genius the thread of the piece is always before you, though his musical ideas are far ahead.

Repay In Kind is free form with an array of musical phrasing moving within a wide circumference of order. Just allow the number’s wisdom to descend… it is mysteriously lush. Although the CD notes attributes the feeling of The Keep to Eric Dolphy, I also felt Andrew Hill’s influence. Osby’s saxophone plunges into an abyss of musical expression, while maintaining his musical direction. His colleagues orbit his ideas, granting him more poetic license.

These musicians achieve an expression of sensitivity and richness that gingerly side-steps the customary musical routes. Golden Sunset is reminiscent of Abdullah Ibrahim’s aggressive sound; while This is Bliss is a delightful mix of strings that pull you out of the comfort zone of beauty, while remaining beautiful in it’s own way. It feels like two directions – and both, like the ‘Yellow Brick Road’ lead to The Emerald City. Beautiful work. One Room finds Osby painting an image of solitude that hints at snake-charmers with Moran’s loping piano line opening the number with a sense of bewilderment before cascading into some agreeably unconventional chords.

Northbound evokes the theme for a thriller/mystery production. Osby’s creative possibilities open up in all directions. His musical movement around the horn positive and sensible, totally beyond reach of prediction. The treatment of Wild Is the Wind makes one even more appreciative of their penchant for taking risks. Social Order is a delightful play on what I deemed to be everything moving every which way within a bubble of confinement.

Osby claims Muhal Richard Abrams, Andrew Hill, Jim Hall and drummer Jack De Johnette as his major influences. Symbols of Light (A Solution) definitely provides more light, and just enough shadow to allow us to see the picture from all vantage points. This is a must have for you strong seekers of uncompromising quality in musicianship.

[Personnel: Greg Osby, alto and soprano sax; Jason Moran, piano; Scott Colley, acoustic bass; Marlon Browden, drums. Strings: Christian Howes; Marlene Rice-Shaw; Judith Insell-Stack; Nioka Kim Workman.]