Gig review: Michael Janisch/Aruan Ortiz Quartet

Aruan Ortiz, Michael Janisch, Greg Osby and Rudy Royston (Picture: Russ Escritt)

The Cross, Moseley, Birmingham UK
Reviewed by Tony Dudley-Evans

It is many years since Greg Osby played in Birmingham and this appearance in a quartet put together by Michael Janisch, bass player and jazz empresario supreme, attracted a large crowd to the upstairs room at The Cross.

The group is essentially led by Janisch and the keyboard player Aruan Ortiz, Cuban born but New York based. Janisch and Ortiz studied together and clearly have a good rapport. The group had done some continental European dates before coming to UK and had become an integrated group with drummer Rudy Royston really driving the group forward on the uptempo numbers and gently supporting on the slower ones.

But the star of the group is undoubtedly Greg Osby, whose essentially acoustic sound and intricate lines on the alto sax always provided interest and nice surprises. No longer is he drawing on hiphop or rap; he essentially takes a very contemporary approach that respects the long established jazz tradition of building an original solo that makes its contribution to the interpretation of the song.

Most of the material was written by Janisch and Ortiz, but there was a fine version of Jitterbug Waltz and the quartet was joined by tenor saxophonist Jean Toussaint, an old friend of Osby’s, for a storming version of Coltrane’s Mr PC.

A good concert which shows the growing strength of Cobweb Collective promotions, but was I alone in finding that the format of relatively short, if attractive, tunes followed by a sequence of long solos a bit repetitive? Maybe this resulted from the lateness of the second set.

This band is at the Pizza Express in Dean Street tomorrow evening as part of the London Jazz Festival. More information here.

For the photography nerds: Russ tells me he took this in the (somewhat murky) available light at ISO 12,800 and f2.8 at a 1/13th – just thought you’d like to know! – PB

Categories: Live review

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