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Track listing:
1. Treachery
2. Ba Dubba
3. World Anthem
4. The Vein
5. Chinese Wings
6. Dragon
7. Regicide
8. Surrender To Benefit
9. T&A
10. The Good Book

Jake Savage - keyboards
Will Sinisi - guitar
Ken Love - bass
Adam Ochshorn - drums

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OSHE - The Good Book

by J Hunter

It’s fitting that Oshe’s new disc, The Good Book, has artwork reminiscent of underground cartoonists R. Crumb and Vaughn Bode. The musical roots of Oshe go back to that same time period – specifically, to the time when Miles Davis’ switch to electric music (symbolized by Bitches Brew, but hinted at by Filles de Kilimanjaro and In A Silent Way) stunned and shocked jazz listeners’ comfort zone. To this day, Miles’ decision is still a point of fervent debate. While The Good Book stuns and shocks in places, it pretty much grooves all over the place. And that’s a very good thing.

The first notes of the driving opening track, “Treachery”, make it very clear: This is going to be a fun, challenging, and – above all – engaging trip into musical hyperspace. None of the cuts on The Good Book wants you to sit quietly in your seat and admire the proceedings from afar. This music grabs you and pulls you closer to the speakers, so you can see the color and detail of every picture it paints. And if you bob your head and shake your butt while you watch… well, that’s cool, too.

The primary colors of Oshe’s paintings come from keyboardist Jake Savage and guitarist Will Senisi. Throughout the disc, Savage establishes the musical direction and then Senisi turns on the afterburners with guitar lines reminiscent of John McLaughlin. Occasionally – for instance, when Senisi’s lines on the title track stray towards heavy metal – there are echoes of another Miles alum, Mike Stern. While Savage’s use of synthesizer is hit-or-miss, and is better when the synth is used as an accent and not a solo instrument, his best work is done on the Fender Rhodes. His solos shine and bubble, and he uses the instrument to great effect when adding splashes of brightness and contrast to Senisi’s soaring solos.

While the lead players are Savage and Senisi, The Good Book is firmly anchored by the rhythm section of drummer Adam Ochshorn and bassist Ken Love. Their solid foundation allows the soloists to explore the surrounding landscape at will. Ochshorn and Love also add other influences to the music; Love’s bassline in “World Anthem” references Dizzy’s “A Night In Tunisia”, while Ochshorn’s multifaceted percussion work on the opening of “The Vein” helps Savage create the feeling of Coltrane’s “Acknowledgment”. This is all part of the group’s talent with texture and nuance. They are not just loud for loud’s sake, a frequent criticism of electric jazz. They can be meditative one moment (“The Vein”, “Dragon”), loping and playful the next. (“Ba Dubba”) Whatever the context, this music is about substance, not shrieking.

I love the fact that The Good Book was recorded live. (“Ba Dubba” comes from a date at Café Zaquor in Gloversville.) It adds immediacy to the music. The players have to be “in the moment”, because you can’t do re-takes on stage. I must say I would have liked to hear more of the crowd’s reactions – their only extended appearance comes during Ochshorn’s outstanding solo on “Chinese Wings”. But in the end, it doesn’t matter how they reacted that evening. It only matters how you react now. And if you like adventure in your jazz, I think you’ll react favorably.

J HUNTER is a former announcer/producer for radio stations in the Capital Region and the Bay Area, including KSJS/San Jose (where he was Assistant Music Director/Jazz programming), Q104 WQBK/Albany, and WSSV/Saratoga. He has also written music and theatre reviews for the Glens Falls Chronicle. He currently resides in Clifton Park.