OSHE : : THE GOOD BOOK ('04)

First and foremost, the artwork on The Good Book is captivating. This album is a perfect example of how powerful the art can be if it is actively used to complement the music. The pencil drawings that are derived from each song title, depicting themes of corporate media control, evangelism, and technology's stranglehold on society, are simply amazing. Symbolic elements that could not be funneled through instruments glare directly at the listener, adding supplementary thematic resonance to the music. But do not buy the album just for the artwork because the music on it is just as charming.

Oshe have grown up and out while heavily touring throughout the past year. Recorded over the span of a month last September in four venues (although more than half of the record is from one show), The Good Book is a fluid exercise in funky jazz, laced with improvisation, hard-hitting melodies, and virtuosic musicianship. From the opening Fender Rhodes melody on "Treachery," Oshe assert confidence in their craft, and that notion entangles the entire listen, regardless of whether the quartet is experimenting with the influence of Ornette Coleman or Karl Denson.

There are some extremely impressive moments on this live set, most notably the free jazz jaunt of "Chinese Wings," which is complete with spirited drum work and advanced technical precision, despite each member venturing off into their own musical realm throughout the nine-minute track. The following song, the rock influenced "Dragon," acts as "Chinese Wings" antithesis, but it is equally entrancing. Free, ethereal improvisation is replaced by progressive metal-laced rock, showcasing Oshe's versatility within the jazz realm and the abundance of unique sounds that can be drawn upon from the jazz scaffold. Moments of The Motet, Medeski, Martin & Wood, and Tiny Universe hover throughout the listen, but rather than just expanding on influences, Oshe carve out their own originality, fed on the fumes of their budding maturity and their comfort in playing together.

The Good Book is the album Oshe have always been capable of releasing, and it is leaps and bounds above their modest debut Going Dark. While the debut was written and recorded during the embryonic stages of the band, The Good Book sounds riper, influenced by the wealth of experience gained on the road and the toughness created by those experiences. This is smoky, brash, improvisational jazz from a group of lads who are only going to improve. Couple that with some magnificent artwork, and you have got yourself a very good book.

Shain Shapiro
JamBase | Europe
Go See Live Music!

http://www.oshe.org

[Published on: 5/18/05]

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