Sep 22, 2007, 12:59 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Mike Osborne RIP
Got this notice in a mailing list earlier this week:
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of alto saxophonist
Mike Osborne, or Ozzy as he was affectionately known, less than a fortnight
before what would have been his 65th birthday. The cause was lung cancer.
Osborne, often referred to as the Jackie McLean of Britain, an
appellation of which he would be most proud, came to prominence in the
fertile English jazz scene of the mid '60s. He was a member of the progressive
Mike Westbrook Concert Band and participated in the small ensemble
recordings of John Surman, Ric Colbeck, Harry Beckett and Alan Skidmore.
He showed his versatility playing in the rock projects of Mike Cooper
concurrently with being a member of the hornline of Chris McGregor's
Brotherhood of Breath. Osborne released several recordings under his own
name from 1970 to 1977 on the Turtle and Ogun labels. Notable associations
included a trio with bassist Harry Miller and drummer Louis Moholo, a
duo with pianist Stan Tracey and the horn trio SOS with Surman and
Skidmore, one of the first of its kind.
Osborne's playing was marked by several qualities: excellent
articulation and time, wonderful invention that absorbed both traditional and
free playing (despite his affiliations, he was far more the former than
the latter) and an enthusiasm that manifested itself in some of the
most incendiary playing on the instrument in jazz history. Whether it
in an intimate setting or as part of a large ensemble, Osborne was an
unmistakable voice, one of the finest to come out of a long tradition
of British saxophonists.
Sadly, drug use and mental illness would take its toll by the
beginning of the '80s. Documents exist of Osborne actively playing at
least until 1982 but after that police troubles forced him back to
his childhood home of Hereford (near the Welsh border) where he
remained, first at home then in hospital care, until his death.
Though he did not record after the '70s, recent issues of older
material have brought Osborne's career back into focus - albums by
Harry Miller's Isipingo, the Brotherhood of Breath and John Stevens.
To view his discography is to witness the development of British jazz
into a creative and enduring legacy. A complete list is available at
Jazz is filled with tragic stories like Osborne's. At the end
of his life, he greatly appreciated that people still remembered him
and his music and still retained some of the beautiful spirit heard
on his recordings. Farewell Ozzy. -
Andrey Henkin / Editor, All About Jazz NY
Some of my earliest forays into the British free jazz scene were many of the Ogun records featuring Mike Osborne and compatriots like Stan Tracey, Mike Westbrook, Chris McGregor and Harry Miller. Another giant gone ... N
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