JJ 03/70: Mike Osborne at the London Musical Club

Fred Bouchard records a hip happening at 21 Holland Park, London 50 years ago. First published in Jazz Journal March 1970

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L-R: Surman, Skidmore and Osborne as SOS. Photo © JJ Archive

A few of the musicians and composers who reside at the London Musical Club decided that weekends there were a bit too quiet. One girl who patronizes the Albion Club asked Janet Christianson whether some joyful noises might be made up at their place. Janet thought it could be arranged, and lo, the London Musical Club now has its own sessions on Fridays. The club is a rambling Georgian edi­fice at 21 Holland Park, and the room the music’s played in is even more unlikely: a long, white rectangle with classical friezes run­ning the walls over sombre pre-Raphaelite can­vases.

The first-night group was Mike Osborne (alto) with Johnny Dyani (bass) and Louis Moholo (drums). They played a suite of sketches organized by Osborne that sounded good. They went through several time signatures gracefully and, though most of the tempi were medium-up, there were some stop-time cadenzas for Osborne’s thorny rhapsodizing. When he does utilize ‘the total horn’, it is not as an end in itself, but because a growl or a fuzzy bit happens to fit in. He has pleasing tone, a very fruity lower register and plenty of rhythmic interest, though he’s primarily (as his influence Cole­man) a melody man.

Louis Moholo breaks more sticks than any drummer I’ve ever seen – at least one a night. He is the hardest-driving, most explosive drum­mer I have heard in England

I like Johnny Dyani better with this trio than I do Barry Guy whom after several listenings I still find scarcely audible. Dyani is strong and sure and obviously enjoys himself. He knows Moholo’s ins and outs and can stand up under his fire for long sets, feed or take rhythmic suggestions readily. He’s not terribly precise but his ideas come thick and fast.

Louis Moholo breaks more sticks than any drummer I’ve ever seen – at least one a night. He is the hardest-driving, most explosive drum­mer I have heard in England. He gets so heated up he boils over into babbling barrages and thunderclap rimshots that drive soloists like crazy. Sometimes he reaches such peaks that he becomes speechless with passion and just stops dead or lets off steam by sizzling both cymbals. This is wildly dramatic and usually works well. My only complaint was that every­thing was fast and loud.

After one set, Alan Skidmore (tenor) and John Surman (soprano) sat in for two. Nice to see Surman back, even if it’s only for the ‘hols’. Though Osborne more or less led the ensemble, Surman stole the show. When time came for his solo on a fast, wobbly riff frame, he went into his post-Coltrane snake charmer mode which he does so well, and with Johnny/Louis reaching naturally into the Jimmy/Elvin bag – it was sweet. Surman can really tootle that fish horn with consummate ease, clarity, and cor­puscles.

Skidmore I’m not too fond of. Though he subscribed the squealing reelings of his two mates rather well, he was odd man out in solo work. He doesn’t have much presence on his tenor – too foggy, distant, up-tight. What’s worse, though he can make scales many different ways, he doesn’t ever seem to have any lyric notions.

The last set was a jam on one of Osborne’s phrases. Again Surman dominated with a hypnotic, swirling construction, but again I rued the fact that these guys don’t blow any quiet stuff.
Fred Bouchard