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9 Levels by Greg Osby

After a sixteen year run with Blue Note records, heralded saxophonist/composer Greg Osby opts for the Indie label route on this 2008 effort, which also stands as his first solo release in three years. Tossing aside the corporate marketing pushes and art-by-numbers decision-making propensities witnessed by larger record labels, Osby bounces back with a fresh look via the sextet format, featuring jazz newcomer and vocalist Sara Serpa.

Osby’s stinging phraseology is in full force when performing on alto and soprano saxes. Yet Serpa’s largely, wordless vocals serve as an additional instrument to round out the sax-guitar-piano frontline attack. Nonetheless, the sextet generates quite a bit of pop and sizzle as Osby’s meticulously etched phrasings are often countered by guitarist Nir Felder and Serpa’s vocals over the top.

Harmonically resplendent, Osby fuses memorable melodies into the often linear and ascending storylines. Moreover, the weaving song-forms are sometimes marked by zesty breakouts and drifting patterns. And on "Two of One," Serpa’s whispery lyricism offers a nicely contrasting element to Felder’s quietly executed slide guitar lines as the band conveys an ethereal edge here.

The lengthiest and final piece titled "Optimism," commences with Osby’s somewhat harrowing choruses via a rather pastoral setting laid out by the band. However, a sense of optimism prevails when Osby and pianist Adam Birnbaum venture into a blithe duet vamp during the bridge and onward. No doubt, this album marks an appealing shift in strategy for the leader and looms as one of his more persuasive band-leading endeavors in several years.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Greg Osby
  • CD Title: 9 Levels
  • Genre: Various Jazz Styles
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Inner Circle Music
  • Musicians: Greg Osby (alto and soprano saxophones), Sara Serpa (vocals), Nir Felder (guitar), Adam Birnbaum (piano), Joseph Lepore (bass), Hamir Atwal (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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