Born August 3, 1960, in St. Louis, Missouri; son of Georgina Osby. Education: Attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. from 1978 to 1980; studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts from 1980 to 1983. Addresses: Record company--Blue Note Records, 304 Park Avenue South, Third Floor, New York, NY 10010. Website--Official Greg Osby World Wide Web Site:

Greg Osby's 1997 album release, Further Ado, maintains and deepens the acoustic groove he struck with his previous album. With the release of 1996's Art Forum, it seems Osby has come full circle and returned to his stylistic roots. Before these two albums, 1987 was the last time he favored the jazz world with anything faintly resembling an acoustic sound. That was on his first album, Sound Theater. Sandwiched between Further Ado and Art Forum, Osby explored new musical combinations including much that was experimental, improvisational, or radical. He combined the rap/hip- hop sound with jazz. Working to fuse jazz with an African-American street-wise sound has added to Osby's reputation for seeking provocative styles of expression. However, Osby is quick to point out that his two latest albums remain connected to his vision of improvisational jazz, and are not a sell-out to improve album sales. Osby told Boston Globe correspondent Bob Blumenthal in a 1997 interview, "I'm an experimentalist and the things I do are based upon contemporary aspects of sound."

Greg Osby was born August 3, 1960 in St. Louis, Missouri. His first instrument was the clarinet. He quickly graduated to the alto saxophone and also learned how to play the flute. At age 15, he began playing professionally. In 1978 he was granted a scholarship to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C. It was at Howard that his radical nature began to show through. He found himself questioning teachers about why they were studying Bach and Mozart. His path to the world of jazz beckoned even in his early years of musical study. In 1980 he enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in Boston--finally, he was home! At Berklee he met many like minded musicians including saxophonists Donald Harrison and Branford Marsalis, bassist Victor Bailey, drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and guitarist Kevin Eubanks, among others. During his tenure at Berklee, he traveled regularly to New York City on the weekends and sat in on jam sessions. Word of his talent quickly spend through the New York jazz scene; when trumpeter, Jon Faddis, began asking around for a saxophonist who could read and write music, Greg Osby was the name who came to minds and lips.

Osby auditioned for Faddis in April 1983, and in spite of graduation being just a couple of months away, Osby left Berklee and hit the road with Faddis. In an interview with Willard Jenkins from JazzTimes on-line, Osby recalled his tour with Faddis and jazz great, Dizzy Gillespie, who was their guest. "I was really into Cannonball {Adderly}, but I was trying to embark on a personalized method of playing and composition, improvisation, and delivery." Gillespie encouraged the young musician to persevere in seeking his own voice on the alto saxophone. He advised Osby that in spite of negative responses, he should not give up. Other early influences included Herbie Hancock's piece, "Speak Like a Child," Charles Minug's "Ah Um," Duke Ellington's "Indigo," and the collaborative effort of Miles Davis-Gil Evans.

Seeking challenge has been a theme in Osby's career. Upon diving into the New York jazz scene, he often found himself frustrated by his less adventuresome peers. He sought out other musicians who shared his love of exploring musical styles beyond the standard Tin Pan Alley fare. One of these fellow adventurers into the experimental and improvisational jazz world was fellow alto saxophonist, Steve Coleman.

During the 1980's along with Coleman, Osby formed the group known as M-Base. M-base was an acronym standing for Macro Basic Array of Structured Extemporizations. "The original idea," Coleman told Nicky Baxter in JAZZIZ, "was to make music that keeps evolving." The group's membership changed over the years. The core members included Jean-Paul Bourelly, guitar; Cassandra Wilson, vocals; Graham Haynes, trumpet and cornet, Osby and Coleman; alto saxophones; Kim Clarke, bass, and Mark Johnson on drums. A literal who's-who of the improvisational scene of the time.

His 1993 album 3-D Lifestyles may have shocked some. At least one critic noted that the language used in this hip-hop meets jazz album by Osby perhaps should have carried a warning label because of potentially offensive language.

Two years later in 1995, the release of Black Book continued his exploration of this radical new form of jazz. Perhaps Osby's early life in the city inspired his use of the harsh, descriptive beat poetry to explore the tenuousness of life in the city where drugs were readily available, and death was merely a heart beat away. In "Pillars of the Community," the lyrics described the affect the environment had on him. "Skeletons stared at me with bulging eyes. I was always close to my piece, but sometimes closer to their cries." His improvisational style continued to thread its way through this work as well. Black Book also came forth from his continued need to always enlarge his vistas and seek new directions.

Whether Osby was playing in a recording studio or jamming live, composing pieces or producing them, his unceasing quest seems to focus on increasing his range and versatility as a performer and composer. Never one to be self-satisfied or to remain long in one place musically, he continued seeking various venues which allowed his full expression of himself musically and personally. Osby realizes that many people fail to appreciate his level of comfort in the acoustic environment, since much of what he played previous to Art Forum and Further Ado were recorded under other artists names, including Andrew Hill, Cassandra Wilson, and Geri Allen.

The 1996 release of Art Forum, returned Osby to his musical roots and allowed him to express himself in his familiar acoustic environment. However, this album also continued his traditionally radical approach to jazz. Osby told Europe Jazz Network on-line that, "I've always been one to speak my mind, and I've always been one to play my mind." We see no less than classic Osby on Art Forum. Leaving the work of fusing hip-hop and jazz behind, at least momentarily, Art Forum is more about group cohesiveness than showcasing one artist. From the peaceful rendering of "Mood of Thought," to the fanciful and lovely rendition of "Don't Explain," Osby's accompanied by the thoughtful and artful pianist, James Williams, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, vibist Bryan Carrott and bassist, Lonnie Plaxico. Then in an abrupt change of pace and mood, he goes for his "signature slash and burn" in "Miss D'Meena." Although variety among the pieces is apparent, and each piece distinctly stands alone, they appear to be joined together effortlessly into one.

Further Ado, released in 1997, is more completely set in an acoustic environment. Osby knows that many of his fans prefer this style of his work as opposed to the more experimental tangents he explored in earlier releases. His further development in the acoustic arena remains connected to his vision of jazz as improvisation. Further Ado has been well received by jazz lovers and provided Osby with an opportunity to showcase his playing. Osby hand picked the musicians accompanying him. They include Jason Moran, piano; Eric Harland, drums; and Lonnie Plaxico and Calvin Jones sharing responsibilities on bass. Further Ado also features Tim Hagans, trumpet; Mark Shim, tenor sax; Gleave Guyton, flute, alto flute, and clarinet; and Jeff Haynes on percussion.

Osby composed two cuts to honor various mentors. "Heard," and "Mentor's Prose," are two of his favorites, and are in honor of the late tenor saxophonist, Eddie Harris. "Mentor's Prose" at the same time is in recognition of Andrew Hill, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Von Freeman. In an on-line interview with Blue Note Records, Osby stated that the result of Further Ado's combination of artists working together is something of a "metamorphic small band configuration that changes on a per tune basis. I was going for a more captivating project using instrumental colors and timbres." It sounds like he's accomplished his goal. Although each piece stands independently they all meld together into a dramatic expression that surprises Osby by leaving him feeling somewhat exposed and vulnerable. The sensitive composition of nine original pieces, plus the popular "Tenderly," in the hands of these talented musicians and guided by Osby's muse leave one believing that Osby has realized his goal of cohesiveness and original expression on Further Ado.

The sound of jazz is alive and well; jamming live or recording, composing or producing, it seems Osby's restless muse will continue to push him forward into uncharted waters--musically, personally, and philosophically. As he told an interviewer on Blue Note Records on-line, "It's a personal challenge for me to always be open to change, to be ever evolving. Because comfort has a complacent sound that goes with it, and I don't want to play that." Stay tuned.

by Debra Reilly

Greg Osby's Career

Joined the New York City jazz scene performing with Jon Faddis, 1983; toured with Faddis and Dizzie Gillespie; formed M-Base with Steve Coleman; collaborated with Cassandra Wilson, Andrew Hill, and many other great improvisational jazz artists; on JMT released Mind Games, 1989, and Season of Renewal, 1990; signed with Blue Note Records and released five albums: Man-Talk for the Moderns V.X., 1991; 3-D Lifestyles, 1993; Black Book, 1995; Art Forum, 1996; and Further Ado, 1997.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

August 2, 2005: Osby's album, Channel Three, was released. Source:,, August 9, 2005.

Further Reading


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