Oliver Lake

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Krentz Ratings:
Ntu (1971), 5.5/10
In Paris, Aries (1973), 5/10
Heavy Spirits (1975), 7.5/10
Holding Together (1976), 6/10
Live at a Space (1976), 5/10
Life Dance of Is (1978), 7/10
Shine (1978), 5.5/10
Zaki (1979), 6/10
Prophet (1980), 5/10
Clevont Fitzhubert (1981), 5/10
Jump Up (1981), 5.5/10
Expandable Language (1984), 7/10
Gallery (1986), 6/10
Impala (1987), 6/10
Otherside (1988), 6/10
Metamorphosis (1990), 5.5/10
Virtual Reality (1991), 5/10
Again and Again (1991), 6/10
Live in Willisau (1992), 5/10
Breath of Life (1992), 5/10
Edge-Ing (1993), 6.5/10
Movement Turns & Switches (1993), 5.5/10
Matador of 1st and 1st (1995), 5.5/10
Kinda' Up (1999), 5/10
Encounter (1999), 5.5/10
Open Ideas (2001), 5/10
Right Up On (2002), 7/10
Wha's Nine (2007), 6/10
Berne Concert (2007), 5/10
At This Time (2008), 5/10
Plan (2009), 5/10
For a Little Dancin' (2009), 5.5/10
All Decks (2011), 5/10
Refraction - Breakin Glass (2012), 5/10
Wheels (2012), 6/10
Wiring (2014), 7/10
What I Heard (2014), 7/10
To Roy (2014), 5/10
Flow (2015), 6/10
Bamako (2016), 5.5/10
Visiting Texture (2016), 5/10

A ten-piece unit helped St Louis' alto saxophonist Oliver Lake (1942) on his dissonant debut, Ntu - The Point from Which Freedom Begins (august 1971).

In Paris, Aries 1973 documents the Black Artists Group, founded in 1968 by Bobo Shaw (drums, gong, xylophoine) with Oliver Lake ( saxes, flute, marimbas, drums), Joseph Bowie (trombone and congas), Baikida Carroll (trumpet, flugelhorn and drums) and Floyd LeFlore (trumpet).

Glory came with the various experiments of Heavy Spirits (february 1975), notably the 11-minute While Pushing Down Turn for a quintet with trumpeter Olu Dara, pianist Donald Smith, drums and bass, and the nine-minute Rocket for a trio with trombonist Joseph Bowie and drummer Charles "Bobo" Shaw. While relocating to New York and becoming a member of the World Saxophone Quartet, Lake created his own "creative" style, at the border between hard bop and free jazz, via Holding Together (march 1976), Life Dance Of Is (february 1978), the neoclassical Shine (october 1978), that juxtaposed electric guitar and a string quartet of three violins and cello, the live Zaki (september 1979), with the free improvisation of the 24-minute Zaki for a trio with electric guitar and drums, the Eric Dolphy tribute Prophet (august 1980), and Clevont Fitzhubert (april 1981) for a quartet with trumpeter Baikida Carroll, pianist Donald Smith and drummer Pheeroan Aklaff.

Live At A Space 1976 (april 1976) documents a live performance by Joseph Bowie (trombone) and Oliver Lake (flute and sax).

Lake was one of the first improvisers to cross over into popular music. He did so with a reggae-oriented band that debuted on Jump Up (september 1981). Expandable Language (september 1984) presented Lake's quintet (guitarist Kevin Eubanks, pianist Geri Allen, bassist Fred Hopkins, drummer Pheeroan Aklaff) in a setting that shunned the most radical dissonance while remaining consistently challenging. Ditto for Gallery (july 1986), that featured the same musicians minus Eubanks, and Impala (may 1987), also for a similar piano quartet.

He also played on multi-instrumentalist Michael Gregory Jackson's Clarity (august 1976) that featured the stellar line-up of David Murray (tenor sax), Oliver Lake (flute, soprano sax, alto sax, talking drum) and Leo Smith (trumpet, soprano trumpet, flugelhorn, Indian flute).

Otherside (august 1988) applied the same principles to Whitestone for a piano quintet (Geri Allen on piano, Anthony Peterson on guitar, Fred Hopkins on bass and Andrew Cyrille on drums) and Dedicated to Dolphy for big band (six saxophones, four trumpets, four trombones, two French horns, piano, bass, drums). Again And Again (april 1991) returned to his specialty, the postmodernist ballad for piano quartet (now pianist John Hicks, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Pheeroan Aklaff), a format that was further refined (albeit with a less cohesive line-up) by the lengthy pieces of Edge-ing (june 1993).

The solo album Matador of 1st and 1st (april 1995), made of very brief vignettes, and the string-driven Movement Turns & Switches (premiered in october 1993), hinted at conceptual ideas, but Lake kept flirting with Caribbean, rhythm'n'blues and funk music, this time with the Steel Quartet, that debuted on Kinda' Up (august 1999).

Lake also contributed some of the most intriguing compositions to the post-Hemphill phase of the World Saxophone Quartet, such as Africa on Metamorphosis (april 1990) and Just a Little on Breath Of Life (september 1992), a piece that Lake had debuted on his own quartet's Virtual Reality (october 1991).

Berne Concert (november 2007) documents a live performance with Irene Schweizer (piano), Reggie Workman (bass) and Andrew Cyrille (drums).

Plan (february and april 2009) featured Freddie Hendrix on trumpet, Jared Gold on organ and Johnathan Blake on drums.

The trio of Oliver Lake (on alto sax), Christian Weber (on bass) and Dieter Ulrich (on drums) recorded Lake compositions for For A Little Dancin' (april 2009) and the live All Decks (november 2011).

Trio 3 (with bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Andrew Cyrille) recorded Live In Willisau (august 1992), Encounter (september 1999), containing Reggie Workman's Suite Tristan, Open Ideas (october 2001), Time Being (march 2005), Wha's Nine (october 2007), containing Andrew Cyrille's ZC and Striation, Berne Concert (november 2007) with Irene Schweizer, At This Time (august 2008) with with Geri Allen, Refraction - Breakin' Glass (july 2012) with pianist Jason Moran. Wiring (august 2013) with Vijay Iyer, containing Iyer's Suite For Trayvon, and Visiting Texture (july 2016).

The Oliver Lake Big Band's Wheels (march 2012) featured Oliver Lake, Darius Jones and Bruce Williams (alto saxes), Jason Marshall (baritone sax), Mike Lee and James Stewart (tenor saxes), Waldron Ricks, Freddie Hendrix, Nabate Isles and E.J. Allen (trumpets), Freddie Hendrix, Stafford Hunter, Alfred Patterson and Terry Greene (trombones), Yoichi Uzeki and Marc Cary (pianos), Robert Sabin (bass) and Chris Beck (drums).

Oliver Lake's Organ Quartet with Jared Gold on Hammond B3 organ, Freddie Hendrix on trumpet and Chris Beck on drums debuted on What I Heard (Passin' Thru, 2014).

Lake also played on the double-disc Innerconnection credited to Ted Daniel's Energy Module.

To Roy (january 2014) was a collaboration with bassist William Parker.

Lake played on Solidarity Unit Inc's Red, Black and Green (september 1970), recorded on the day Jimi Hendrix died, with Carl Richardson and Kada Kayan (bass), Danny Trice (congas), Richard Martin (guitar), Charles Wesley Shaw, Jr. "Bobo" (percussion), Clovis Bordeaux (piano), Joseph Bowie (trombone), Baikida Yaseen and Floyd Leflore (trumpet).

Oliver Lake launched the Generations Quartet with Michael Jefry Stevens (piano), Joe Fonda (double bass) and Emil Gross (drums) on Flow (october 2015), containing the 17-minute Me Without Bella.

Right Up On (april 2002) documents a live performance with the Flux Quartet founded by violinist Tom Chiu in 1996 with Conrad Harris on second violin, Max Mandel on viola and Felix Fan on cello.

The OGJB Quartet with Graham Haynes on cornet, Joe Fonda on double bass and Barry Altschul on drums released Bamako (july 2016) and Ode To O (june 2019).

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