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A free-flowing stream of riffs and motifs

Channel Three is tuned into the incomparable improvisations of Greg Osby.

April 27, 2006|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

THE jazz trio instrumentation of alto sax, bass and drums that Channel Three brought to the Jazz Bakery on Tuesday is both challenging and stimulating for the players. With no harmony instrument such as piano or guitar, the musicians can experience the complexities and the excitement of an extraordinarily open improvisational environment.

For the listener, such music can be similarly enlivening, especially when the material is familiar, with the inferred harmonies of the saxophone-bass interaction providing a subliminal musical perspective for the soloing. When the music is not familiar, and the playing moves into the seeming anarchy of freely improvisatory space, distraction can become a problem.

But not so with Greg Osby, bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Tommy Crane. Osby, a veteran of Manhattan's adventurous M-Base ensembles of the '80s, is a post-Charlie Parker, post-Ornette Coleman altoist. The vocabulary he brought to his improvising -- the collection of melodic riffs, motifs and melodic fragments that are the building blocks of jazz solo invention -- were very much his own, beyond bebop, beyond Coltrane, beyond fusion.

When he was in full flight, as he was in his own piece, "Vertical Hold," Coleman's "Mob Job" and the Cole Porter classic, "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," Osby's playing was gripping. His solos almost always emerged with motivic threads that linked segments, occasionally alternating wildly virtuosic bursts of notes with more connected melodic fragments. Only rarely did he falter, sometimes falling back on exercise-book arpeggios. But those moments were few and far between. Far more often, Osby applied his fertile imagination and consistently warm, engaging sound to a series of solos that clearly place him in the top echelon of 21st century jazz.

He was superbly aided by Brewer and Crane. Osby's music calls for a turbulent, roiling rhythmic undercurrent -- very different from the swing of straight-ahead jazz, but no less propulsive. Brewer's solid foundation and Crane's shimmering, multilayered percussion textures provided the perfect sense of flow.


Channel Three

Where: The Jazz Bakery, 3233 Helms Ave., Los Angeles

When: 8 and 9:30 p.m. today through Saturday

Price: $25

Contact: (310) 271-9039

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