The culmination of the Whirlwind Festival at Kings Place will be the appearance of Greg Osby's all-star quintet with Raynald Colom, Aruán Ortiz, Michael Janish and drummer Marc Ayza.
In anticipation of that gig, I spoke to Greg Osby. He admitted that after several years of high-profile activity as bandleader - thirteen Blue Note albums as leader between 1991 and 2005 - he's been “somewhat below the radar” in the past few years. His last album as leader dates from 2008. For four years, until recently, he had a teaching post at Berklee, but he has now moved on from that.
Not having heard him play for a while, I asked him where on the continuum from abstraction to connection he currently saw himself. He said that his ideas about his own creativity and on what makes music work have changed:
"There were too many variables that appealed to me and not to lay persons. Audiences want to be entertained.”
So making the kind of music which builds a connection with audience is a priority? “Absolutely!” He is very pleased to be re-conecting with the band which Michael Janisch has put togetther and which will be at the WhirlwindFestival. That experience of having a regular group “is not as common as it once was. Or should be” He likes it when “ the personalities interact.” Such a group steady personalities is great for exploring texture, it “gives an identifiable colour. Pick-up bands are far less engaging. There's a joy in developing familiarity. Once you've crossed that hurdle you reach out for a certain thing in their playing.”
He also has got into the habit of writing for this band – knowing the people enables him to write specifically for them.
But the over-riding sense I got from our brief chat is that Osby is looking forward to connecting with the audience on October 12th. Perhaps the charming reflection he made on his time in jazz education says it all:
"They ought to have classes in how to make people smile."
Tickets for Kings Place/ Whirlwind Festival HERE