Monday, December 5, 2016

Ted Panken Interviews

Ted Panken is one of my absolute favorite journalist/researchers. He had a broad framework of reference and responsibly investigates instances, facts and history in preparation for his interviews. I consider his perspectives to be among the most sensitive and accurate of any contemporary music writer.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Inside Jokes

Posted below is a photo from a New York Times open panel discussion hosted by Ben Ratliff which featured Danilo Perez, Master Roy Haynes, Michael Brecker and myself. After a short briefing backstage, we met onstage to answer questions from Ben as well as the audience. I found the storie sand anecdotes from Mr. Haynes to be exceptionally historically compelling. Mush of what he offered can not be accurately found (if at all) in any biography or music history book. He clearly illustrated why it is imperitave that younger players seek the truths directly from the sources and contributors themselves - without filler content or embellishment.

However, situations such as this can be challenging, depending on the participant's state of mind, attention span or the level of fatigue that they may be fighting. As active, traveling artists we often have to summon inordinate amounts of energy to stay attentive during panels and interviews. Methods may vary, and those efforts are not always detectable to outside parties. Here, Mike and I are trying not to laugh out loud in front of the audience and are recovering from one of my many under-the-breath wisecracks - that were probably responses to questions that were not necessarily directed to us. I enjoyed trying to make him lose his composure, while he snickered with a straight face. That evening, he didn't crack. Perhaps because Roy Haynes was on the set. It didn't prevent me from trying though. Mike was a very interesting guy, and I always admired his work ethic and the way that he crafted his exceptionally recognizable identity in music. I met him during my early New York days when I toured with trumpeter Jon Faddis and he was always generous with information and very inspiring. He used to leave lines and melodic phrases on my (cassette tape based) answering machine that I would play over and over.

Now if I can only locate those old tapes.....  I have no idea where they are.

Sometimes when I would see him through the years, when no one was around I would speak to him in a fake robot voice. I did this and would tease and call him "Roboticus" because I kiddingly joked that his playing sounded contrived and completely devoid of spontaniety. I accused him of over-practicing and dehumanizing everything, to which he always got a kick out of me doing so. This wasn't true,  of course, and speaking to him that way was only a thinly-veiled attempt to goad him into proving me wrong on the spot. If we were backstage, in the dressing room or if he had his horn, he would laugh and answer my robotic voice with one of his mind-blowing signature blazing lines - played super fast. He was only giving me a musical response to my jokes. But I wasn't laughing at that point.

Needless to say, I would stop speaking in that robot voice immediately. lol.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fred A -STARE into the UNKNOWN

I conducted a private lesson for a very talented international student today. This young man is the recipient of a national award from his native country (I won't reveal his identity or where he's from) which requires him to have a number of one-on-one sessions with a US-based artist of his choice. He contacted me via Skype. We chatted for a bit and I suggested that he send me a sampling of his playing, to which after hearing only a few minutes of a recording that featured him performing without accompaniment, I consented to meet with him for study.

He arrived in a timely fashion and was very polite. He immediately put together his instrument and as he warmed up, he flawlessly played some of the most fantastic technical melodic patterns that I have ever heard anyone play. I was absolutely impressed, and listened in admiration as he effortlessly glided around his saxophone with ease and precision. This went on for some time, and since his lesson was timed I reminded him that we should proceed with the information and procedures that I'd prepared for him - which is why he came to me in the first place.

Blank stare. Silence. No acknowledgement whatsoever. 

Not him, but pretty close.

He then resumed playing by himself and kept at it. No break. He simply ignored me and continued with a barrage of more incredibly difficult and lengthy patterns. I figured that he was going through a personal ritual and he needed to finish before we entered into the actual session, which I must admit, can be quite demanding. However, it became aware to me that something wasn't quite right. This guy eventually became oblivious to my presence and my repeated suggestions that we should get to the heart of the discussion.

His dazzling exhibition, in his own mind, WAS the lesson!

He was not open to any additional information, suggestions, evaluations, anything. In fact, he played by himself for practically 1.5 hours and did not stop to ask me one single question. After he finally did stop (which was a relief, to be honest), I suggested that we improvise with a play-along track and trade choruses on a familiar standard song. It was at this point that the truth was finally revealed...

It immediately became painfully clear that the guy excels at playing solo passages alone, but he had the worst time and concept of form that I have ever witnessed from someone who plays the instrument so well. It was obvious that he has put practically no time into the actual act of group interplay or session participation. The idea of keeping his place in the form or acknowledging the environment was completely foreign to him and the sad truth is that he didn't know that he didn't know. I'm at a loss of just who is responsible for this because he is not a beginner by a long shot, but I would make a guess that his teachers did not bring these issues to his attention. In fact, I feel that his education has been hijacked, because it will be overwhelmingly difficult for him to un-learn whatever it took that allowed him to believe playing solo patterns is acceptable or to embrace the methodology which is prerequisite for functioning effectively in an improvising environment. For all of his technical prowess, the young man has been debilitated by his education, or lack of a proper one.

At any rate, I will continue to meet with him and hopefully be able to illustrate to him that, despite his dexterity on the saxophone, he is well below the level of acceptance in the real world of contemporary improvised music. Perhaps I'll lend an update to this saga in months to come. I'm as curious as any to see the outcome.

Next lesson: Stop staring and STOP PLAYING!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Adding Comments to OzBlog

To anyone who reads the Ozblog postings and may have a word or two of commentary to offer, it's very simple:

1. All you have to do is to click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the current post

2. And save YOUR comment via your gmail, wordpress, etc account.

3. All comments are welcome. Even those that may oppose my viewpoints. I don't always have to be right, and I definitely don't purport to being an authority on much of anything. I generally write stuff that everyone "thinks" but is afraid to say publicly. I've always thought that there was nothing to lose by being honest, and I'm just putting issues on the table in an effort to (hopefully) encourage some spirited, but respectful, discussion - even with those who disagree. Nothing will change otherwise.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


I (reluctantly) attended an after concert jam session recently. It has not been my practice to participate in such festivities for many years because for some reason, whenever I step up to take a solo at sessions, things have a habit of falling apart on the bandstand shortly after I begin to play. For a long time, I didn't understand why but it happened so often that I began to instinctively recognize the indicators: Pianists will start to comp with far too many percussive and dense chords, bassists break up the beat unnecessarily and drummers shamelessly obscure everything with excessive volume, rushing, metric modulation, hemiolas and all out non-stop soloing. These violations are much more evident when very young players are involved - especially recent graduates from university level music programs. (Of course there are exceptions) Unfortunately, unseasoned players sometimes use these sessions as unofficial audition situations, and take it upon themselves to "go for it, every time" at all costs. The result is often amateurish, unlistenable chaos and the most common excuse is usually "I'm sorry,  I thought that's what you wanted...."

However, at the aforementioned session, the issue was completely different. After I was called to play, (even though I had no intentions to do so) I was completely blindsided by several younger players who suddenly took out their instruments and stampeded to jockey for a place on the large stage. They hadn't been summoned nor invited by the host nor any members of the band but in as much as I enjoy hearing musicians play and express themselves, it was perfectly fine with me. I chuckled and welcomed them.

After a very loose and sloppy melody statement was made by one of the young players (who clearly didn't REALLY know the melody OR form) I stepped up to take one of my classically short solos (Charlie Parker length.) It was at that point, one of the young saxophonists all but bogarted his way to the microphone and blasted his way into the first chorus. As I realize that music is not a competitor sport, I laughed and marveled at his bravado and enthusiasm and let him "have it." After his solo that went on for far too long, another player did the exact same thing. He cut off someone else and elbowed his way to the microphone. This scenario went on with maybe 2 more players afterward.

Finally, when it came time for me to play, and after they had exhausted every possible avenue of expression and tested the patience of the audience by playing marathon-length solos, I waved off the opportunity and let the pianist play instead because the song had gone on for entirely too long. At that point, I felt that there was no reason to contributing to the cacophony. There had been at least five or six solos played already.

OBSERVATION: The behavior that was exhibited that evening is part of a phenomenon ushered in by a current generation of players who have not been taught or conditioned to show respect for those that have endured much more in the music. (re: elders) Their only aim and cause is to put on an exhibition of what they can do, despite the fact that much of it is not original or in the spirit of storytelling and embracing the spirit of artistic camaraderie. The attitude is one of pure selfishness and a lack of awareness of the staples and ethics of the craft. There is no way possible that I would have EVER bum rushed Lou Donaldson, Jackie McLean, Charles McPherson, Bunky Green, etc. or ANY elder at a session or otherwise. Not only would it have been foolhardy to do so in a musical sense but it would have been a showing of utter disrespect. I would have, with full humility, waited my turn, made a quick statement of maybe ONE chorus and then withdrawn back into the shadows to be seen and not heard. I would have done that simply out of reverence and acknowledgement of the social hierarchy and laws of the bandstand. It's called, "Knowing Your Place."

Teachers, please teach your students to adhere to the principles of grace and decorum in all musical situations.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Artists Interviewing Themselves - The New Standard In Jazz Journalism.

The following are excerpts from an online interview (one of many) that I did last year. I deliberately obscured the source and publication, as not to appear that I'm attacking them directly. I'm merely providing this as an illustration of this recent phenomenon...
On 0X/0X/2015, at 9:53 AM, Greg Osby wrote:


Here you go. I finally found a break and a little bit of energy to do this.  As you know I've been on tour and traveling lengthy distances every day. To be entirely honest with you, I'm not necessarily a fan of survey-type interviews, and it's far easier for me to talk than "compose" my thoughts and answers to basic questions. With this new form of internet-based transmissions, the artists do all of the work and the journalist simply affixes their name to the article and gets the credit - as if they verbally asked the questions and transcribed the answers themselves. Not good. Also, this should have been taken care of weeks ago while I had plenty of time to do it while I was still in the US, fully conscious and in my own time zone. Now you tell me that the deadline is approaching...

When artists are on tour, there are full days of attempting to function in a jet lagged stupor, endless amounts of activities, ridiculously early travel departures bad food and mostly sleepless nights. Still jet lagged and fatigued, I barely had the brain cells to complete this. I appreciate your efforts, but answering questions via email after arrival to foreign destinations isn't recommended. I prefer to be as thorough as possible and to hopefully make good sense when doing interviews. With this in mind, I'm hopeful that my answers don't reflect my still foggy mind state. Perhaps we can speak via phone or Skype next time.



On 0X/0X/2015, at 2:07 PM, XXXXXXXX <> wrote:
Hi Greg,

Sorry to be a nuisance, but when you get the time would you be able to fill out the below Q&A and send your answers back to me? We are nearing the deadline.

Have a great day~!

Kind regards,



On 0X/0X/2015, at 2:07 PM, XXXXXXXX <> wrote:

Hi again Greg,

I hope you're well,

I've had a great request for a Q&A with yourself from XXXXX XXXXX from XXXXXXXX.

I have attached his Q's below, if you could kindly fill out your answers when you get the chance and send those back to me that would be fantastic

Kind regards,


1.     After a 16 year tenure and 15 albums for Blue Note, in 2007 you launched your own record label ‘Inner Circle Music’.  How has this turned out for you and is the direction you’re heading in changed over the last six years?

It was the best decision that I could have made. Having complete control in every stage of the production of my releases is best for me at the moment. Of course, running a label requires a great deal of time and energy, but the end results feel much more satisfying when we get good responses for our efforts, knowing that no compromises were made in the creative process. 

2.     Jazz or improvised music is one of the most purist forms of personal expression but with that, comes a certain vulnerability because each night you’re putting everything on the line in a very public way.  I’m thinking that it would be easier for you to deal with criticism these days given your success and stature as an artist but how did you deal personally with criticism in the early days when critics might have had negative opinions on your jazz-rap fusion?

"Critics." The very term and everything that it represents is somewhat pointless. No other profession allows non-practitioners to determine the value of it's participant's work or their worth. The medical profession, for example,  doesn't allow people who have never studied or practiced medicine to offer commentary about the particulars of the practice. How did we as musicians become so fortunate, to have people whose only reason for living is to get free CDs, DVD's and admission to our shows - and then go on to write and publish misquoted and sometimes bitter commentary? Their very existence is pointless, and I don't know of anyone who has acted in any way whatsoever as a result of being influenced by a review. And frankly speaking,  I have never had any need to "deal" with reviews because I don't normally read them. And when or if I do, I'm not disturbed by unfavorable ones because I know the mentality of many of those who write them. We have totally different agendas. But to be fair, sometimes the observations, complimentary or otherwise, do hit their mark.

My hip hop projects and tours were actually very well supported and received at the time, which was over 20 years ago. The only real issue was that there was no precedent to compare my band with because none existed. Musicians didn't collaborate with rap artists before my project, so there was no way to define or market it with any successful blueprint. All in all, I considered it a departure and an experiment and by no means did I set out to extend those projects beyond their natural course. Above all, I'm an improvising artist and composer first. 

3.     How does it make you feel when you see the younger artists such as Jason Moran or Sara Serpa whom you’ve given significant opportunities to, become such successes in their own right?  Would you say this approach stems from the opportunities you received yourself from artists such as Jack DeJohnette?
The success of younger artists whom I've hired is exactly what I was planning for when I hired them. It validates my reasons for hiring them when no one else would. The entire point, by design, is for our successors to so well and hopefully, go farther than we have. I've always done, and will continue to do everything that I can to insure that anyone who passes through my bands or studies with me will succeed. I will give them all of the information and guidance that I'm able to provide. I'm obligated by the laws of the music to guide them as I was guided by the elders before me. That's the way it is. Touring in Jack's band for 6 years provided me with a great model for leadership and organization. 

4.     The world lost one of the great modern jazz guitarists in Dec 2013 in Jim Hall.  You made a lot of great music with Jim Hall.  What is your lasting memory of the great Jim Hall?

Aside from being one of the greatest humans beings and artists that I have ever known, I learned a great deal from Jim about space, balance, phrasing, color, dynamics and good decision making. Not to mention that he was also very funny, warm and incredibly thoughtful. 

5.     In 1993 you were on the cover of Downbeat with Lester Bowie under the title of ‘Jazz Rebels’  Would you consider that title still appropriate to your approach to music?  If not what would your preference be?

That was an unfortunate and inappropriate caption for that magazine and article. It was an obvious ploy designed to incite and to sell copies of their publication, and is entirely why many artists are distrustful of the media. We were not advised of that decision. There is nothing rebellious at all about being determined and staying true to your mission as an artist. What is there to rebel against? 

6.     You have on a number of occasions written for Downbeat with interviews  of artists of the calibre of say Ornette Coleman.  While some artists prefer to let the music speak for itself, you obviously feel it is worthwhile providing verbal insight from the artists perspective.  What are your thoughts on that?

Much that is written and covered about music comes form the perspectives of frustrated and unqualified individuals, many who feel empowered by their positions as journalists. I feel that it is very important that artists not continue to allow their work to be recklessly defined by others, many of whom have hidden agendas or are covering work only by assignment and not out of passion. Failure of artists to state their relative cases results in their music being miscategorized or classified by ridiculous terminology, like 'Bebop." I do not believe that the definition of creative works should be relinquished to the authority of persons who are not in tune with the complete intentions and aspirations of the artists themselves. This is why I chose to write articles for publications myself or to make regular postings to my blog. 

7.     In XXXXXX and I assume in XXXX you’ll be performing with pianist XXXXX XXXXXXX, one of our most consummate and lyrical players.  What type of approach can audiences expect to witness with this collaboration?

They will enjoy a healthy collaboration between artists who, although are from dissimilar backgrounds are hopefully, in pursuance of similar goals.