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RIP Michael Evans Osborne (1941-2007)

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of alto saxophonist Mike Osborne, or Ozzy as he was affectionately known, less than a fortnight before what would have been his 65th birthday. The cause was lung cancer. Osborne, often referred to as the Jackie McLean of Britain, an appellation of which he would be most proud, came to prominence in the fertile English jazz scene of the mid '60s. He was a member of the progressive Mike Westbrook Concert Band and participated in the small ensemble recordings of John Surman, Ric Colbeck, Harry Beckett and Alan Skidmore. He showed his versatility playing in the rock projects of Mike Cooper concurrently with being a member of the hornline of Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath. Osborne released several recordings under his own name from 1970 to 1977 on the Turtle and Ogun labels. Notable associations included a trio with bassist Harry Miller and drummer Louis Moholo, a duo with pianist Stan Tracey and the horn trio SOS with Surman and Skidmore, one of the first of its kind. Osborne's playing was marked by several qualities: excellent articulation and time, wonderful invention that absorbed both traditional and free playing (despite his affiliations, he was far more the former than the latter) and an enthusiasm that manifested itself in some of the most incendiary playing on the instrument in jazz history. Whether it in an intimate setting or as part of a large ensemble, Osborne was an unmistakable voice, one of the finest to come out of a long tradition of British saxophonists. Sadly, drug use and mental illness would take its toll by the beginning of the '80s. Documents exist of Osborne actively playing at least until 1982 but after that police troubles forced him back to his childhood home of Hereford (near the Welsh border) where he remained, first at home then in hospital care, until his death. Though he did not record after the '70s, recent issues of older material have brought Osborne's career back into focus - albums by Harry Miller's Isipingo, the Brotherhood of Breath and John Stevens. To view his discography is to witness the development of British jazz into a creative and enduring legacy. A complete list is available at Jazz is filled with tragic stories like Osborne's. At the end of his life, he greatly appreciated that people still remembered him and his music and still retained some of the beautiful spirit heard on his recordings. Farewell Ozzy - Andrey Henkin / All About Jazz NY


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