Wednesday, June 12, 2013

S.O.S. - Looking For The Next One (Cuneiform, 2013)

S.O.S. was a fascinating experimental British jazz band that was active from the early to mid 1970’s. Consisting of saxophonists Mike Osborne, Alan Skidmore and John Surman the group also embraced electronics including synthesizers, sequencers and electric keyboards and drums, which gave their music a unique and progressive sound. Looking For The Next One is a compilation of unreleased studio sessions and live recordings. “News” is a short opener that sets the pace for the music with electronics fading in and saxophones responding in a snarling and intriguing manner. “Rashied” is particularly exciting when probing saxophones swirl around each other in a manner that is experimental and unusual. The music foreshadows the work of the World Saxophone Quartet with the tight harmonization of the instruments and then in sections where two saxes riff and support the soloing of the third. Science fiction electronic bleeps and bloops introduce “Looking for the Next One” building hypnotic tones and adding electric piano to the mix. They develop a droning hum as a base, then there is a tenor saxophone solo above it. “Country Dance” has circular saxophones developing a force field of sound using a fascinating series of delay and echo. Electronics and the introduction of drumming drive “Q.E. Hall” to a fast and exciting improvisation. Solo saxophone over great percussion move the music into hardcore free territory before pulling back from the brink with an electric piano interlude. There are three lengthy live tracks on the second disc, “Suite” “Trio Trio” and “Up There.” These show how the band’s conception was able to be incorporated into a concert setting, taking risks in lengthy quasi-free improvisations that use jagged saxophone, swirling electronics and waves of percussion. This was an exciting set of music. Though the electronics are quite dated by today's standards, they must have been seen as exotic at the time, and their use along with powerful saxophones and percussion make the music much more than a historical curiosity. Looking For The Next One -

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