Sep 10, 2012
Some people know how to throw a birthday bash.
Noted saxophonist/poet/painter/all-around good guy Oliver Lake will celebrate his 70th birthday this week with a series of shows in New York. The winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993, Lake has executed commissions for the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra and the Brooklyn Philharmonic; arranged for Björk, Lou Reed and A Tribe Called Quest; collaborated with poets, choreographers, and international musicians; led his own Steel Quartet and Big Band, and worked with cooperative ensembles the World Saxophone Quartet and Trio 3.
Three entirely different and equally exciting bands, all led by Mr. Lake will perform at The Jazz Standard from September 13-16. The Oliver Lake Organ Quartet (Oliver Lake – alto sax; Jared Gold – organ; Freddie Hendrix – trumpet; and Chris Beck – drums) kicks things off, followed by the return of the 17 piece Oliver Lake Big Band. That ensemble features Lake, Beck and Hendrix, along with artists like Darius Jones on sax; Yoichi Uzeki on piano and Robert Sabin on bass. The Trio3 (Oliver Lake – alto sax; Reggie Workman – bass; and Andrew Cyrille – drums) will play for two nights, with special guest Geri Allen on piano.
I spoke with Lake as he rested up for these and other September dates. He had just come off the road from Europe with the World Saxophone Quartet, and looked forward to heading to Japan with the band shortly thereafter. At least two new Lake CDs are in the can, and should be released shortly, including a new Big Band CD. Out conversation centered on how he keeps his creative spark alive, particularly as he approaches this milestone birthday. Click here to listen to Podcast 2197, including that conversation and musical selections, including:
Oliver Lake Organ Quartet – “Backup” from Plan. Awarded 4 ½ stars by Downbeat in 2011, the album features some of the best young talented musicians in the New York area: organist Jared Gold; Trumpeter Freddie Hendrix; and the highly creative drummer, Johnathan Blake.
Oliver Lake Big Band – “Boucin’ Back (Bumpin’ Me Against the Wall)” from Cloth. Lake’s youngest son is a DJ who keeps his father supplied with the latest in hip-hop music. As a result, he has created jazz works from rap songs in the past, such as this one originally performed by Mystikal.
Trio3 – “Crooked Blues” from Encounter. The solid trio of Lake, Andrew Cyrille (drums) and veteran bassist Reggie Workman recorded this CD in 2001, and they are still going strong. Workman, you may recall, was on hand for John Coltrane’s legendary Live at the Village Vanguard sessions, and is currently a professor at the New School. In New York City
World Saxophone Quartet – “Hey Joe“from Experience. David Murray’s liner notes talk about Hendrix as being a jazz player at heart. I’m not quite sure of that, but here’s a famous blues recorded by Hendrix on his first album, done WDQ style. The four sax players are Lake, Murray, Hamiet Bluiett, and John Purcell, backed by Craig Harris on trombone, the late Billy Bang on violin, Matthew Garrison on bass and Gene Lake on drums.
Oliver Lake – “Owshet” from Heavy Spirits. Here’s a small group session from 1975, produced for Arista by Michael Cuscuna. The band is Lake (alto sax), Olu Dara (trumpet), Stafford James (bass), Donald Smith (piano) and Victor Lewis (drums).