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Inner Circle (1999)

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Stefon Harris

Osby recorded Inner Circle in 1999 but chose to postpone its release until 2002, for artistic reasons. Save for Tarus Mateen in place of Lonnie Plaxico, the disc boasts the same lineup as Jason Moran's debut, Soundtrack to Human Motion, and a similar temperament as well. Each piece has its own unique logic, whether it's the meticulously plotted pauses of "Entruption," the dizzying, impenetrable matrix of "Fragmatic Decoding," or the round robin of unaccompanied solos that constitutes "The Inner Circle Principle." Osby has a characteristic way with stealthy, walking lines and harmonies; it comes through most clearly on "Equalatogram" and "Sons of the Confidential." His reading of Björk's "All Neon Like" anticipates what Moran would soon do, on Facing Left, with "Jöga." And his cover of Mingus' classic "Self-Portrait in Three Colors" is faithful to the original, coming at the end like a dessert. It's a relatively short program, but a comprehensive and highly creative one. ~ David R. Adler