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British Sax legend Mike Osborne in his earliest surviving recording as a co-leader with John Surman from 1966, and in 1970 with the first known recordings of his trio with the South African rhythm team of Harry Miller and Louis Moholo.

Osborne, Mike

Osborne, Mike: Dawn (Cuneiform)

Label: Cuneiform    
Released in: USA    

"In the history of British jazz, there were few voices as unmistakable as Mike Osborne's alto saxophone. It could be found in big bands as disparate as those of Mike Westbrook and Chris McGregor; in major small-group sessions led by John Surman, Ric Colbeck, Alan Skidmore and Harry Beckett; and, most importantly, his own handful of albums as a leader. Dawn presents Osborne in both his earliest session extant, as a co-leader with Surman of an almost-traditional quartet from 1966, and in 1970 with the first known recording of his mighty trio with the transplanted South African rhythm team of Harry Miller and Louis Moholo. These unearthed 1966 and 1970 recordings, first released by Cuneiform Records, not only fill in important gaps in Osborne's own discography but in the history of British jazz as a whole.

Osborne's story is one of the tragedies of British jazz. Within 15 years of his first recordings, simmering mental illness had taken over and forced him away from his musical compatriots in vibrant London and brought him back to his native Hereford (near the Welsh border), where he lived under care until his death in 2007, his saxophone silent for decades. But during his career, Osborne was one of British jazz's most versatile players, working with members of the various spheres creating a new indigenous British jazz: the Spontaneous Music Ensemble circle; the crowd around the South African Blue Notes; members of the Canterbury Scene; and the modernists centered on John Surman. Dawn presents Osborne in two of these settings, one recorded during the first birthing pains of British jazz and the other when its reach and reputation had already been established. Dawn presents Osborne in reverse chronological order. The first six tracks are by his trio, his main vehicle as a leader and featuring his most long-standing partners in Miller and Moholo (whether under Osborne's leadership or in other groups, this trio recorded together nearly 20 times from 1970-77).

The band only made two albums during its lifetime, Bordercrossing and All Night Long, both for the legendary British label Ogun (run by Miller and his wife Hazel). Dawn, three tracks each from August and December 1970, is significant for presenting the trio years before these sessions and demonstrating that the group's sound, marked by Osborne's tart melodicism, Miller's brawny lines and Moholo's propulsive freedom, was established at the beginning of their partnership. The material played by the group is a fascinating selection: From the first portion, "Scotch Pearl" would appear years later on All Night Long, followed by the evocative "Dawn" and closing with what sounds like a deconstruction of Herbie Hancock's "Jack Rabbit"; two of the December 1970 pieces are hitherto unknown, bookending a fascinating version of "1st", which would appear four years later on the eponymous debut of S.O.S., the saxophone trio of Osborne, Surman and Alan Skidmore, the template for later groups of the same type such as World Saxophone Quartet and ROVA.

Listeners will travel back four years earlier with Dawn's second half, taken from a period when names now famous were just coming out from the shadow of Britain's traditional jazz scene. Osborne, 24, is there in his first document, Surman, 21, in only his second, supported by Miller and the "elder" of the quartet, drummer Alan Jackson, who would play alongside the others in the years to come with Mike Westbrook and in Surman's own groups. This was an era of formal suits and allegiance to the innovations in American jazz happening on labels like Blue Note and ESP-Disk', reflected in the performances and the material. The quartet plays pithy versions of Pharoah Sanders' "Seven By Seven" (taken from the saxophonist's 1964 debut for ESP-Disk'), Carla Bley's "And Now The Queen" (made famous by her then-husband pianist Paul in two versions recorded for ESP-Disk' in 1964 and 1965) and Booker Little's "Aggression", previously only played by Eric Dolphy's 1961 quintet.

There is one original, Osborne's "An Idea", presaging the composer's way with soaring melodies. This part of Dawn may only be 20 minutes but don't let it's length blind you to its preciousness; the importance of hearing Osborne and Surman in such a formative stage cannot be overstated, given their later contributions (in Surman's case, still continuing to this day). Dawn continues Cuneiform's valiant efforts in presenting crucial documents of British jazz, coming on the heels of releases like S.O.S.'s Looking For The Next One and Surman's Flashpoint: NDR Jazz Workshop (April '69), both of which have expanded Osborne's discography and helped keep his musical memory alive. With jazz becoming increasingly international, it is vital for the foundation of each country's oeuvre to be known; those who appreciate British jazz and wish to learn more about its history will seek out Mike Osborne for the creative force he was during his (sadly) truncated career. Dawn, Osborne front and center, in contexts that would define his future, is a musical Rosetta Stone but also simply wonderful music."-Cuneiform

See all items in the Cuneiform category

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
London & UK Free Improvisation Scene
Quintet Recordings

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Price: $14.95
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Shipping Weight: 4.00 units

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Product Information:

UPC: 045775039220

Label: Cuneiform
Catalog ID: CUN-CD-392
Squidco Product Code: 20305

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2015
Country: USA
Packaging: Jewel Case
Tracks 1 - 3 were recorded in London, UK, in August 1970

Tracks 4-6 were recorded in London, UK, in December, 1970

Tracks 7-10 were recorded at Regent Sound, London, UK on June 9th, 1966 by Eddie Kramer.


Mike Osborne-alto sax

Harry Miller-double bass

Louis Moholo-drums

Alan Jackson-drums

John Surman-baritone sax, soprano sax

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Track Listing:

1. Scotch Pearl 6:54

2. Dawn 8:21

3. Jack Rabbit 8:34

4. Tbc 10:56

5. 1st 7:42

6. TBD 7:48

7. Seven by Seven 5:21

8. And Now the Queen 3:21

9. An Idea 5:39

10. Agression 6:24