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Mike Osborne

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Reviews of Mike Osborne

 

19/03/2009 Martin Longley ~ All About Jazz New York

Late English alto saxist Mike Osborne, whose work represented the pinnacle of British avant jazz, sadly retired back in 1982 as a result of mental health problems. The discovery of previously unheard material is therefore particularly exciting, especially when its standard is high enough to preserve the reedman's best playing form.

This disc features live recordings of two different quartet lineups, both of them having Osborne teamed with trumpeter Dave Holdsworth. The opener, "Ducking & Diving," sprawls over an epic 42 minutes, from a performance at the 1980 Kolner Jazzhaus Festival in Germany. Osborne doesn't tarry, charging off into an exhaustive solo virtually straight away, with bassist Marcio Mattos kind of soloing too, maintaining a pulsing miasma alongside drummer Brian Abrahams. Then Holdsworth spurts, making a complete shift closer to something approaching the jazz tradition. Abrahams develops a bouncing beat that's almost a jungle precursor, then all goes quiet midway, before some odd structures form, such as the brief stretch of rocking-out rhythm five minutes before the conclusion. Osborne and Holdsworth began building their close rapport while working together with Mike Westbrook in the early '60s, right at the beginning of their careers. The trumpeter remembered this Koln gig as a personal pinnacle, but until 2007 (the year of Osborne's demise) he hadn't realized that it had been recorded.

Despite Holdsworth's memories, the other two pieces, recorded in London a year later, are arguably even more gripping. Here, Tony Marsh is on drums and Paul Bridge plays bass, the latter thrusting with an electric hardness, well up in the mix. "Journey's End" (8 minutes) and "All Night Long" (12 minutes) are more compact, horns tussling simultaneously, with seething urgency. The quartet slams with punk urgency into the latter tune, hurtling through a twinned theme with not a second wasted. Osborne is tensed expression personified, while Holdsworth is jetting off competitive flares. These were the days and now there is some sort of partial memory at the fingertips.

 

16/12/2008 Dusty Groove

Searing alto work from Mike Osborne -- captured here at the height of his powers in two live performances! The first long track on the set -- "Ducking & Diving" -- is a 42 minute jam by a quartet that features Osborne on alto, Dave Holdsworth on trumpet, Marcio Mattos on bass, and Brian Abrahams on drums -- all stepping strongly together with a force that almost reminds us of an Albert Ayler mid 60s performance on ESP! The track's got a really searching feel -- with staccato rhythm parts in the leadoff, then amazing solo work from Osborne -- playing here with a sense of spontaneous creativity that's tremendous. The next two tracks are from a year later, and also feature Osborne and Holdsworth, plus Paul Bridge on bass and Tony Marsh on drums -- all coming together with a similar sense of energy, but perhaps a bit tighter overall -- slightly more restrained, but still at a level that's pretty darn compelling. These titles include "Journey's End" and "All Night Long"

 

24/06/2008 Nic Jones ~ All About Jazz

The mercurial nature of alto sax player Mike Osborne's musical personality was arguably a difficult thing to capture on record, but here it's caught in all its glory despite the slightly muddy fidelity. Any degree to which he might have been in thrall to both Jackie McLean and Ornette Coleman was no longer an issue by the time these performances were captured back in 1980 and 1981, and the music has wings and a method of flight entirely its own.

"Ducking & Diving" makes the case for that over the course of forty two minutes. The quartet on occasion falls back upon melodies familiar enough to be hackneyed but only in the cause of recharging their creative batteries. Indeed it could almost be argued that they do so by way of wry comment on the level of creativity happening elsewhere. Osborne's understanding of pitch was always sure by comparison with McLean and the nature of his relationship to drummer Brian Abrahams on this one is on a par with the one he enjoyed with Louis Moholo. The very 'altoness' of his instrumental conception is true enough to render any thought of doubling as absurd and in that respect trumpeter Dave Holdsworth's more reflective, perhaps measured approach is the ideal foil.

By comparison of course the less than eight minutes of "Journey's End" is a relatively brief flight. It's long enough however for bass player Paul Bridge and drummer Tony Marsh to bring a different collective dynamic to the music, with Marsh's hyperactive bass drum not so much anchoring the music as contributing to a polyrhythmic foundation for Osborne and Holdsworth to fly over. If anything Holdsworth is less measured here, with a perhaps conscious smearing of his lines adding a further dimension to proceedings.

In its echoing of one of Coleman's lines "All Night Long" hints at a similarly ambivalent link with the post-bop tradition, and both Osborne and Holdworth show how 'outside' they are in those terms in their flights. Osborne in particular sounds agitated here, as if at one and the same time he's impatient with traditional turns yet also in thrall to them. The creative tension that suggests is a hallmark of this entire set.

 

15/07/0008 Barry Witherden - BBC Music Magazine

"Mike's recorded legacy lasted just 10 years, so whenever unreleased sessions come to light, it is cause for celebration, especially when he and his colleagues are on such splendid form. Admirers of this remarkable artist need this disc!"

 

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