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Channel Three (2005)

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Greg Osby

Post-bop alto saxophonist Greg Osby has a restless soul. Throughout his many albums he has hopped into and merged genres like a man trying on hats, experimenting with rap and hip-hop, funk, fusion, avant-garde, string quartets, and even what passes for mainstream jazz these days. Channel Three finds him working in a piano-less trio with drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts and bassist Matt Brewer, a situation that gives Osby plenty of room to shine, and his sax lines move with a hard and sturdy lyricism, with a little less of his trademark dissonance this time around. The absence of a chordal instrument doesn't seem to hinder anybody here, since Watts and Brewer keep things tightly locked in a deep groove at all times, giving Channel Three the feel of a complete, enclosed sequence. Watts is particularly adept at turnaround shadings, and his cymbal work is subtle, exact, and essential to the trio's ability to expand each track's theme as it progresses. Highlights include the opening track, a powerful and flowing version of Ornette Coleman's "Mob Job," the tense, insistent "Please Stand By," the eerie, tilting title track, "Channel Three," and the brisk, tight version of Eric Dolphy's "Miss Ann" that closes the set. The piano-less trio setting doesn't give anyone a place to hide, and while Osby only has a couple sax tricks up his sleeve, he plays them perfectly, and with the propulsive, percolating rhythm section of Watts and Brewer behind him, he delivers one of his most open and uncluttered albums yet. ~ Steve Leggett