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),
but 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.
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
Trio 3 (bassist Reggie Workman, drummer Andrew Cyrille and reedist Oliver Lake)
and pianist Jason Moran recorded Refraction - Breakin' Glass (july 2012).
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
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.
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