Greg Osby Plays A Marathon

Alto player's nonstop 75-minute set tests patience of some at Washington, D.C., club.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Alto saxophonist Greg Osby played a nonstop 75-minute set at Washington's Blues Alley on Tuesday night, transfixing some listeners and leaving a few others scratching their heads at the marathon approach.

The set, organized as a suite, consisted of several tunes by Osby and some by his pianist, Jason Moran. The rest of the group is drummer Derek Phillips and bassist Vashon Johnson.

"That smoked. Somewhat disheveled, but great playing and crazy intensity," said Rebecca Brainard, 30, of Washington. " [Osby] was awesome. I've been checking out his stuff over the past month. Basically that's why I'm here talking with you now."

The band started out with familiar material, playing Moran's "Gangsta Rhythm on Canvas," from the pianist's 1999 Soundtrack to Human Motion. That tune drifted into Osby's "Nekid," from his 1998 record Zero.

About half an hour into the set, people seemed to want a break.

"I guess some people can't hang," said Jason Stevenson, 25, of Washington, referring to patrons talking and leaving during the set. But the rudeness from a segment of the crowd didn't seem to bother Osby.

"I don't even remember what we played," the 39-year-old said after the gig. "We just get into a vibe and I just lead us into whatever place I feel like at the moment."

Having recently released Invisible Hand, which contains the song "The Watcher" (RealAudio excerpt), the band is on the first leg of a U.S. tour.

"We were just overseas and will be on the road for a while," Osby said.

The deep connection between Blue Note labelmates Moran and Osby revealed itself when the two dueled on late trumpeter Lee Morgan's standard "Sidewinder." The two played a fun version of the tune on last year's New Directions, and seemed to slip into it by accident during the gig.

Osby likes to perform nonstop, an approach he documented on the 1998 live album Banned in New York.

"It takes a while to build up the stamina," Johnson said. "[Bassist] Lonnie Plaxico turned me onto the gig and told me I better get ready."

Greg Osby tour dates:

May 18; Boston, Mass.; Museum of Contemporary Art

May 19–20; Atlanta, Ga; Churchill Grounds

May 26–27; Philadelphia, Pa.; Zanzibar Blue

June 2; Hartford, Conn.; Cafe 880

June 6; New York, N.Y.; Knitting Factory

June 10; New York, N.Y.; Aaron Davis Hall

June 16&3150;17; St. Louis, Mo.; Juneteenth Festival

June 18; Half Moon Bay, Calif.; Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society

June 23–24; Detroit, Mich.; Serengetti Ballroom