Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mike Osbourne - Dawn (Cuneiform Records, 2015)

This album presents the legendary British alto saxophonist Mike Osborne in two unreleased sessions: tracks 1-6 recorded in 1970 with Henry Miller on bass and Louis Moholo-Moholo on drums and in 1970 with Miller on bass Alan Jackson on drums and John Surman on saxophones. Beginning with the ’66 session, “Scotch Pearl” has a fast and new-thing like quality with burly squalls of saxophone supported by thick bass and nimble percussion. There is an opening in the middle for bass and drums to take the music down just  a hair in intensity before Osborne to take the music up, way up, with the trio collectively engaged and totally locked in. There is a hymn like setup for steely saxophone, bowed bass and shimmering cymbals on “Dawn” thick plucked bass and gently tapped percussion adding to the spiritual air, before the music begins it’s powerful climb into a state of grace and then falling back into the quiet, meditative melody. Herbie Hancock’s “Jack Rabbit” is aptly named as the opening section is a treacherous series of switchbacks that everybody hits at full blast and use as a jumping off point for torrid improvisational sections. There is a riotous section of free improvisation before the trio are able to swoop right back into their finishing statement. There is a lengthy and complex melody on “TBC” where Osborne takes a seemingly vertical improvisation on alto saxophone, whirling into a vortex of sound. The music builds quickly, this is great stuff, very intense yet free - they are just flying unmoored with a sense of joy. The group downshifts briefly to allow Miller a nice spot, before Osborne returns adding a bit of bop to his closing gambit. There is a more open and loose sensibility to “1st” with rattling percussion and plucked/strummed bass providing an air of unease that is enhanced by Osborne’s emotional wails of saxophone as if crying out in emotional or spiritual pain. The final three tracks of Dawn switch things up as we warp back in time to 1966, keeping Miller on bass, but adding Alan Jackson on drums on John Surman on baritone and soprano saxophones for an ambitious program of compositions by Osborne, Pharaoh Sanders, Carla Bley and Booker Little. Osborne was a protean force on the British jazz scene at this time as this recording shows. Sadly, illness would take hold and he would gradually retreat from the music world robbing it of one of its most promising members. Dawn -

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