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Mike Osborne: Force Of Nature - Part 2-2

Barry Witherden By

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All Night Long was re-issued in 2008 as part of a series of events celebrating Osborne's life and work. It chronicled a concert by the trio at Willisau, Switzerland, on 3th April 1975. Most of the music had originally been released in 1976, but the time-limits of LPs had meant that there had to be some omissions. The trio had played three sets, and the LP had been taken from two sections of one of those. The CD restored "Waltz," a 7-minute section which featured an impressive solo by Miller, and a second, shorter but ferocious version of "Scotch Pearl. The CD also added another previously unreleased performance, "Now and Then, Here and Now," recorded somewhere in Europe probably around the same time.

If you want to hear quintessential Osborne trio performances you can't do much better than these: lengthy improvisations, mainly at white-knuckle tempi, where classic songs, original tunes and impromptu lines are tumbled together in a dazzling melee, stepping up the temperature, momentum and complexity until you wonder how they will be able to end without crashing. It's therefore all the more startling when Osborne dramatically disrupts a fearsome, careering solo by quoting "When I Fall In Love" with real tenderness. It evokes his days with Westbrook, when he could turn the band's mood on a sixpence.

The opening track, "All Night Long" leading into "Rivers," demonstrates the trio's practice of starting with a climax and working up from there. In the CD re-mastering Miller is well to the fore, showing even more clearly what a remarkable player he was: powerfully propulsive, never neglecting the bass's harmonic function, inexhaustibly stitching strong melodic lines to Osborne's white-hot cascades of notes. Moholo (for some years now he is properly referred to as Moholo-Moholo, an expansion of his name that he adopted as being more authentic) envelops them in crisp, agile, insistent tattoos which he insinuates into every interstice.

The trio, now with Tony Levin on drums, appeared in Birmingham (England, not Alabama) on 7th November 1976. The recording made of this concert eventually surfaced in a two CD package on Cadillac in 2012 under the self- explanatory title of The Birmingham Jazz Concert. If ever faced with the hideous prospect of being able to keep only one Osborne recording, this would be my choice. He often sounded driven, and there were times when a pile-up seemed inevitable, but here he is definitely in the driving seat himself, in complete control. The concert perfectly illustrates what Osborne described in the notes to Border Crossing quoted above: continuous sets seamlessly weaving several tunes (some improvised, some pre-composed by the trio members, some by other hands) into an inexorably unfolding coherent whole. This concert featured some of the trio's most "mainstream" playing, yet the conventions are wrung out to create exceptionally exhilarating, imaginative, sometimes challenging, often joyous music which never seems to look back nor rest on clichés or spare the gas. Miller plays superbly throughout, contributing some gorgeous solos as well as driving, propulsive patterns behind the alto solos. Levin, too, is on fine form, paying imaginative attention to sound variety as well as pulse and momentum.

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