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The Octet Broadcasts 1969 and 1979


Artist: Alan Wakeman
Label: Gearbox Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 21 August 2020

Back in 1970 Melody Maker referred to Alan Wakeman and his band as “the next young generation of British jazz” - a phrase overused nowadays. The young alto saxophonist, influenced by Charles Mingus and mentored by Mike Westbrook, was composing singular, large ensemble pieces at a time when jazz had long left the limelight and rock was in the foreground. Now, two separate Wakeman Octet ensemble recordings, made in ‘69 and ‘79 for BBC radio broadcast, are being released as a double LP via Gearbox Records...

Serious jazz collectors will relish the opportunity to pick up these recordings from '69 and '79 which incorporate 13 tracks (1 hr, 19 sec). This is the first time these have been released commercially. What will win most over is the diversity on offer here. From random sounding freestyle "noise" to more traditionally structured pieces, Wakeman and his band explore as many avenues as possible.

Taken from the original tapes, all of the tracks featured on the '69 recordings were written specifically for these broadcasts - the compositions have never been released elsewhere. Similarly, both octets that featured on their respective recordings were a onetime formation and never went onto record or tour together. The result is a one-of-a-kind snapshot into a time when British jazz was at another high, featuring such names as John Taylor, Alan Skidmore, Paul Lytton, and Art Themen, who themselves were contemporaries of and collaborated with the likes of Evan Parker, Michael Garrick, Ian Carr and Roscoe Mitchell.

If, however, you're not a huge jazz fan then there is little here that will turn your head. For those that this is aimed at... you'll have a blast.


Nick Smithson

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