Mike Osborne, powerful and passionate

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It was good to see Barry Witherden’s piece on Mike Osborne. Ossie was one of a select group of unique and original players who graced the British jazz scene in the 60s, 70s and 80s. He stands alongside the likes of Stan Tracey, Bobby Wellins, John Surman, Kenny Wheeler, Mike Westbrook and John Taylor in having his own distinctive voice. Indeed, he certainly played with most of these greats.

I was lucky to hear Ossie live on many occasions but a few stay in the mind. His duet with Stan Tracey at Bracknell in 1976 and a concert by SOS at the Pheonix in Leicester in probably 1975 stand out in particular. There were also several visits to Coventry jazz club, which I helped run, including his quartet with the greatly underrated Dave Holdsworth; I also remember him in Harry Miller’s Isipingo and his trio with Harry Miller and Louis Moholo, some of which I recorded.

I also recall the last occasion I heard him at Bracknell with his new septet in June 1981. He still seemed to be playing well at this time and it was a great concert – so much so that we booked the septet to appear at the club in December 1981. Unfortunately Mike was incapacitated by then and his place was taken by John Taylor on piano. John Surman led the group using what he could find of Mike’s ideas and scores.

Mike Osborne’s powerful and passionate playing is greatly missed, but thank goodness there is a large body of his work as leader and sideman still available for today’s listeners. Seek it out and enjoy it.

Graham Ruff, by email