SOS All-Stars


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A couple of years before the World Saxophone Quartet was formed and achieved prominence, these three fellows from England got together in what was essentially a saxophone trio, albeit sometimes aided by electronics and percussion. Alan Skidmore, Mike Osborne, and John Surman were all well-known members of the British avant-garde jazz community, but this recording owes perhaps as much to the Canterbury prog scene as it does to jazz. The compositions tend toward the melodic and rhythmically active, often based on overtly folk-like structures and themes; sometimes it sounds almost like Soft Machine as played by a horn trio. Several of the pieces are positively infectious and laid into with evident glee. The reed play is uniformly solid and fresh and they get into some inspired, free interplay at some places, like the end of "Where's Junior/Cyclical Motion," where the three wail with abandon. Surman would go on to make something of a name for himself with ECM, but the real treasure is the strong, furious work of the underappreciated Osborne, whose subsequent health problems hindered his further career. True, some of the synthesizer bubblings sound a bit dated in a Roger Powell-ish kind of way, but overall the album holds up remarkably well. Unavailable on disc as of 2002, S.O.S. is well worth seeking out both for its inherent value and as an approachable introduction into the English avant-garde jazz scene of the '70s.