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Mike Osborne: Dawn

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Some musicians project a cocksure attitude with regard to their abilities, while others can be driven by a lack of confidence. For Mike Osborne, the latter proved to be his undoing. A fixture on the jazz scene in 1960s/70s England, his career was derailed by a combination of drug use and mental illness that exacerbated his self-doubt, and he stopped performing a decade later. He died in 2007 of lung cancer.

Cuneiform shed some light on the alto saxophonist’s brief career with the 2013 release of performances by S.O.S., a cooperative saxophone trio that also included John Surman. Dawn features recordings of Osborne leading a trio and quartet, playing with a fire inspired by Jackie McLean. Bassist Harry Miller and drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo join him on six tracks from 1970 that stay close to the ground with an energy that seems ready for liftoff at any moment. Miller walks with a fast assurance, while Moholo-Moholo’s accents push Osborne’s spiky tone in creative directions. In their able hands, Herbie Hancock’s “Jack Rabbit” morphs into something closer to Ornette Coleman, due especially to those stop-time breaks.

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