'Looking For The Next One' Reveals An Underappreciated Sax Trio | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

'Looking For The Next One' Reveals An Underappreciated Sax Trio

Play associated audio

The English trio S.O.S. — saxophonists John Surman, Mike Osborne and Alan Skidmore — was formed in 1973, and made only one LP for the Ogun label a couple years later. They didn't last long, but they were the first of many horn choirs born in the '70s and '80s, mostly saxophone quartets. S.O.S.'s trio voicings sometimes eerily anticipate the World Saxophone Quartet that came along a bit later.

The trio was tight and maneuverable, changing direction as one like birds in flight. That precision stemmed from extensive rehearsing, close listening on the bandstand and playing a little Bach. S.O.S. might sound like more than three players by moving the voices around, even when two reeds are riffing behind the other.

Tenor player Alan Skidmore is a Londoner, the son of a jazz saxophonist, while altoist Mike Osborne and multi-instrumentalist John Surman grew up closer to the countryside. There was always a strong whiff of agrarian roots and the English folk revival about S.O.S. They might literally break into an Irish jig. Their theme "Country Dance" was perfect for a romp around the maypole. A lot of '60s and '70s English jazz has that bagpipey energy.

In S.O.S., that strain was reinforced by Surman occasionally setting up electronic drones or loops to underpin the saxes. He used sequencers like The Who on Who's Next. That side of S.O.S. looks ahead to many overdubbed solo records that John Surman has made since then, where those folk elements ring out.

A new double set of unreleased S.O.S., Looking for the Next One on the Cuneiform label, was recorded in concert and in the studio in 1974 and '75. It more than doubles the band's output on record, and amply makes the case for a too-little-known trio that could sound timeless, of its time and ahead of its time. Maybe now is its time.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Mexican TV Icon Roberto Gómez Bolaños Dies At 85

The actor, writer and director was a staple of Mexican television comedies and children's programs for decades.
NPR

From Humble Salt To Fancy Freezing: How To Up Your Cocktail Game

You don't need to have liquid nitrogen at your next cocktail party — but it's certainly a sure-fire way to impress your guests. Expert mixologist Dave Arnold walks you through it.
NPR

Week In Politics: Hagel's Resignation, Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution and David Brooks of the New York Times about the grand jury's decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson and the resignation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
NPR

Millennial Doctors May Be More Tech-Savvy, But Is That Better?

Text messages from your doctor are just the start. Millennials are the next generation of doctors and they're not afraid to say "chillax" in a consultation or check Twitter to find medical research.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.