The Zen of Sax

by

comment

This wonderfully articulate album is saxophonist-composer Osby's latest report from "the Zero Zone," a condition of absolute concentration (samadhi) which he likens to the Buddhist state of "no-mind." Osby's musical grail is that "seldom experienced but extremely high level of communicative exchange" in which performers and listeners are able "to freely draw upon (their) complete pool of knowledge" without hindrance.

All but one of the compositions on this date are Osby's and reflect his long-standing commitment to creating interactive structures for effective small-group improvisation. In Writing Degree Zero, Roland Barthes observed that "structure is the residual deposit of duration." Thus, while "archaeological" allusions to the modernist vocabulary and syntax of postwar jazz abound here, they are neither nostalgic for, nor deferential to, the discourse of past masters.

Examples include "Minstrale," a Monk-inflected homage to the great Andrew Hill; Muhal Richard Abrams' eloquent "Two Over One"; "Nekide" and "Ozthetica" with their echoes of Lee Konitz and Wayne Shorter; and the fleet boplicity of "Extreme Behavior" and "Concepticus in C" (for Steve Coleman).

Osby's beautiful tone and technical fluency are consistent at any tempo, but are especially compelling in his ballad playing, which features a sublime balance of emotional intensity and improvisational poise. Joining him in "the Zero Zone" are longtime collaborators Jason Moran on keyboards, Kevin McNeal on guitar, Lonnie Plaxico and Dwayne Burno on bass, and Rodney Green on drums. While each of these gifted players brings a conceptually distinctive voice to the proceedings, it is in their collective, at times empathic interplay that the expressive possibilities of Zero are most evident.

Zero is neither a gratuitous blowing session nor a snooze-inducing sampler of sonic wallpaper. Rather, with admirable economy and focus, these tracks address the "inner ear" and invite the listener to enter into a mindfully musical exchange.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.