The Invisible Hand

Greg Osby
(Blue Note)

Greg Osby, a 39-year-old alto saxophonist with frantic tendencies, could not have chosen better company than his collaborators on The Invisible Hand. They include two disparate titans of jazz: the 69-year-old master guitarist Jim Hall and the endlessly innovative pianist Andrew Hill, who is now 62 but still pressing forward. At first blush, this seems an odd stylistic grouping, but the results are gratifying. Hill's jagged attack, elastic sense of time and contrarian harmonics, which have unraveled many a bassist and drummer over the years, work beautifully underneath Hall's introspective, Charlie Christian-inflected lines. These two individualists have never before recorded together -- in fact, they have a total of three sideman appearances between them in the last 35 years -- and the clash of styles is dynamic. Their interplay on Quincy Jones's "Who Needs Forever" speaks not just of professionalism, but of magical synthesis. Kudos to Osby for imagining the Hill-Hall possibilities before actually hearing them, and more kudos to the senior statesmen for bringing out the more reflective Osby we meet here.

On "Nature Boy," which has long been Coltrane property, saxophonist and guitarist exchange favors to gorgeous effect, and on the intriguing Hill original "Tough Love," Osby and the pianist demonstrate both harmonic daring and inventive phrasing. Many of the flashy Gen-Xers who ordinarily work in Osby's bands would profit as much as he has from a few weeks with elders as fluent as these. The remainder of the group -- Gary Thomas on flute, tenor and alto, Scott Colley on bass and Terri Lyne Carrington on drums -- are also at their very best. They have to be: Hooking into the elusive Andrew Hill wavelength is no easy task. But the rewards are great. You can almost feel the younger musicians' delight in having entered Hill Country (and Hall Country) and come away better artists for it. As for Osby, he seems now to have tempered his passion with some long-overdue contemplation. After this splendid meeting of minds, he is likely to be a very different, more enriched kind of player.

 
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