Mike "Ozzie" Osbourne is best remembered as a cultish reed player who won favor with Melody Maker (first place "Best Altoist" from 1969-1973) and as a member of several notable bands such as the short-lived sax trio S.O.S (with John Surman and Alan Skidmore) and the South African ex-pat-formed, Mingus-meets-Sun-Ra Brotherhood of Breath — but that's just the tip, as his one-off contributions rival Jimmy Page's pre Led Zeppelin session work. From critics to peers, he is referred to as "gifted", "prolific", "highly charged", "powerful" and "individual". In 1982, he suffered from schizophrenia exacerbated by the "touring life" and spent the last 25 years of his life in retirement.
Remembering Osbourne's life, chance meetings and performances (Evan Parker was also a member of Brotherhood of Breath), this duo shared a connection and dedicated their 2009 Jubilee Festival show to the man.
Now that we have this out of the way, on to the music.
Slovenian-born drummer Zlatko Kaučič (another obscure figure whose name you have to spell several ways to get his works to scrobble in iTunes) on "floor drums" (a collection of literal bells and whistles, frame drums, myriad cymbals and a converted percussion stand littered with objects) and Parker on tenor and soprano sax, spinning an intimate memorial that jumps from fragmented to fiery, taking time in the cracks between. "Link to...O" begins with whispers, Kaučič gently scraping and rubbing drum heads as Parker calls and answers with wide spaces in the interim. They proceed into a staccato series of muted clangs and clacks before, despite Kaučič on his knees, taking off into a smoking wash that echoes the stark-and-maximum thrust of Insterstellar Space (you know, the transcendence of Coltrane and Ali where just a sax and drums imply harmonic movement and fill in for an otherwise entire band?) It's this shift of gears that makes the arc of this musical paint-by-numbers so attractive: at times, they chug forward and stay representational to help you see the form; quite often, however, the élan from dot to dot, the shape of the smudges and the brush strokes of brilliant color are the focus — and neither man ever empties his palette. (These are not accolades or descriptive scenarios new to Master Parker's critiques, but Kaučič's toe-for-toe contribution with someone he met the day before the show should be noted.)
The free-form is exploited on "Link to...I" with yelps of "Heyyyy!", Kaučič shaking a nut in a can, the percussionist giving attention to each piece of his wooden and metal accoutrement as Parker takes flight into circular breaths and subtle microtonality. Pairing down yet just as entrancing, the encore "Dear Mike" is Parker back to his hushed tones and Kaučič knocking on a single cymbal, coaxing a generous amount of bent pitches and rhythmic durations from knocking on a single cymbal. Parker returns to hushed tones, turns to a muted growl and finishes unaccompanied in the most delicate, reverent punctuation one could will for a memorial.
Are there deeper meanings and insights into Osbourne's life and career throughout the selected notes of Round About One O'Clock? Probably — I'm currently not well enough versed in his music to pick them out. But regardless of the post-humus sentiment, this remarkable music stands (alone) as proof that death is not the end. RIP.
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