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St. Louis Shoes by Greg Osby

Greg Osby’s latest project is a reinterpretation of jazz standards by masters like Ellington and Monk and cover tunes by modern composers like Jack DeJohnette and Cassandra Wilson. Stepping away from his usual partner in crime, Jason Moran, the piano chair is held down by Harol O’Neil as well as Marsalis comrade Robert Hurst on bass and Rodney Green on drums, with special guest Nicholas Payton on trumpet. Osby and Payton make a very interesting front line, they move through the knotty reinterpretations with ease, and work together well as a team.

The setlist includes a couple of Ellington pieces, the lead-off track "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo" and "A Single Petal of a Rose" as well as Thelonious Monk’s "Light Blue" and a quirky version of Gershwin’s "Summertime." Also of note is a full throttle version of Dizzy Gillsepie’s "Shaw Nuff" with Osby and Payton taking on their Parker and Gillespie roles respectively. Cassandra Wilson’s "Whirlwind Soldier" is an elegiac and atmospheric piece, which slowly evolves with the group improvising on the melody. The record is capped off in fine and appropriate fashion by a version of W.C. Handy’s "St. Louis Blues."

This is really a thinking man’s (or woman’s) kind of disc. Osby and the band reinterpret older standards in a thoroughly modern way, never making them sound clichéd or hackneyed. All of the members solo well and also improvise well collectively. Overall this is a fine album of modern mainstream jazz and proof that the mainstream doesn’t have to be derivative or repetitious.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Greg Osby
  • CD Title: St. Louis Shoes
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Blue Note
  • Tracks: East St. Louis Toodle-oo, Shaw Nuff, Light Blue, Whirlwind Soldier, Summertime, Milton on Ebony, The Single Petal of a Rose, Bernie’s Tune, St. Louis Blues
  • Musicians: Greg Osby (alto saxophone), Nicholas Payton (trumpet, flugelhorn), Harold O’Neal (piano), Robert Hurst (bass), Rodney Green (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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