‘Listening to this album is an experience that has few parallels.’

Ogun OGCD 029

Mike Osborne (alto); Harry Miller (bass); Louis Moholo (drums)

Recorded 13 April 1975

All Night Long > Rivers / Round Midnight / Scotch Pearl / Waltz / Ken’s Tune > Country Bounce > All Night Long / Scotch Pearl / Now And Then

Michael Evans Osborne, saxophonist: born Hereford 28 September 1941; married; died Hereford 19 September 2007.

Mike played his last gig in 1982. Illness took over and he was in care until his death. Before all that he enlivened jazz, working with diverse groups: Mike Westbrook, Mike Gibbs, Humphrey Lyttelton, Kenny Wheeler, John Surman, Stan Tracey in a duo called Tandem and with Harry Miller’s Isipingo. One major contribution was with the Brotherhood of Breath, the group founded by Chris McGregor and South African expatriates.

Many people experienced Osborne at the Peanuts Club in London’s Bishopgate. There he was often joined by Harry Miller and Louis Moholo. The organiser of the club Ken May was celebrated in Osborne’s piece ‘Ken’s Tune’.

Osborne soon grew beyond his early influences: Jackie McLean, Phil Woods and Ornette Coleman. Perhaps the biggest influence on his work was the South African saxophonist Dudu Pukwana that he encountered in the Brotherhood of Breath. Pukwana’s strident passion seeped into Osborne’s playing over time. Osborne managed to absorb all that he encountered so that by the time of the Willisau recording his music was his own.

The Willisau Festival in Switzerland has had the reputation for many years of hosting some of the most challenging jazz. Cecil Taylor played there as has the Brotherhood of Breath, Sun Ra and in 1983 there was a memorable set from Tony Coe at his most avantgarde.

Harry Miller was a unique bass player. He was part of the group of South African expatriates who came to London to escape the madness of apartheid. Harry sounds like no one but himself. His sound is fierce, driving, a-listen-to-me urgency that he could sustain for long periods almost beyond music. In addition to the work with Osborne he had his own group Isipingo and he worked with Elton Dean, John Surman as well as Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath where he could provide part of the rhythmic energy and sustain rhythmic patterns to hold themes together.

The other aspect of the Brotherhood’s energy came from Louis Moholo. He has his own style of drumming: a hybrid of Sunny Murray, township influences mixed with bop. His muscular percussive style can be very sensitive to the music and can be overwhelming when the music demands.

Osborne’s ‘All Night Long’ fires the session into life. The harsh timbre of alto is impassioned. If this is a conversation between Osborne, Miller and Moholo there is anger there more than energy. They are throwing ideas around, playing with them commenting on them. There is a confidence, a certainty; they know where they are going.

Osborne is gloriously, urgently flying free, liberated, exploring his imagination and power. Miller and Moholo have instincts and reflexes sharp enough to follow or suggest alternatives. They are listening and cajoling. Sharing the power. The long pieces turn into unrelenting suites with Osborne possessed of an endless deep well of ideas.

The only cover is ‘Round Midnight’ which starts almost conventionally as he hands over to Harry Miller. When Osborne returns with no restraint there is depth and ferocity with ideas entwined around Miller’s bass. They all eventually descend into the devilish energy of ‘Scotch Pearl’.

The recording is an ally to the music: it has clarity and definition that allows the energy through. There is an almost retrograde stereo separation that gives Miller and Osborne their own channel.

Listening to this album is an experience that has few parallels.