'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

Church Of Scientology Calls New HBO Documentary 'Bigoted'

The filmmaker says Going Clear, harshly critical of the Church of Scientology, is about the dangers of "blind faith." The church has hit back with an aggressive public relations effort of its own.

NPR

Was Your Seafood Caught By Slaves? AP Uncovers Unsavory Trade

Some of the seafood that winds up in American grocery stores, in restaurants, even in cat food, may have been caught by Burmese slaves, a yearlong investigation by The Associated Press finds.
NPR

Sen. Harry Reid Says He Won't Seek Re-Election

The Democratic leader in the Senate announced his decision in a video. "My friend Sen. [Mitch] McConnell, don't be too elated," he said. "I'm going to be here for 22 months."
NPR

Police Departments Open Up 'Safe Lots' For Craigslist Transactions

Several crimes around the U.S. have been tied to the website's in-person transactions. So police departments are offering up their parking lots to provide a secure space for buying and selling stuff.

Leave a Comment

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