A certain virtuoso local drummer, now deceased, used to think British jazz was a joke. I doubt he had heard much. The US Cuneiform label continues its inestimable retrospective on British jazz’s golden era, stretching roughly from 1965 until 1980, and this new instalment of recordings from the late Mike Osborne, among the greatest-ever alto saxophonists, is a true treasure.
Most of the tracks present Osbourne just with South Africans Harry Miller (bass) and Louis Moholo (drums) in 1970. This uncluttered trio context is ideal for relishing Osbourne’s sound, with its scything, soprano-like upper register and brawny, growling bottom end. He imbues his lines with ferocious energy, and they need it, because what is happening behind him, for all its lightness and sparsity, just sizzles.
The final four tracks, from 1966, also have Miller, plus the incomparable John Surman blazing on baritone and soprano and Alan Jackson playing drums. Osborne and Surman together (as they were often) made for a two-sax attack that was hard to beat – on either side of the Atlantic.