For the reedist, composer, poet, performance artist, and entrepreneur Oliver Lake, “it’s all about choices.” The New York Times praises both his “robust and piercing sound” and his “acres of experience in the self-sustaining avant-garde,” as a co-founder of both the revolutionary Black Artists Guild, a cross-disciplinary African-American alliance, and the World Saxophone Quartet, a pioneering co-led experimental ensemble. Oliver has also founded his own record label and non-profit arts organization, Passin’ Thru.
Oliver grew up in St. Louis, and began his involvement in the arts in his early teens – both as a visual artist and a musician. After developing a serious interest in jazz and receiving early encouragement at the hands of the singular trumpeter and AACM member Lester Bowie, Oliver moved to New York in the mid 1970s. In addition to his work with the World Saxophone Quartet and Trio 3 (an ensemble which he co-leads with the bassist Reggie Workman and the drummer Andrew Cyrille), the renaissance man has been commissioned by everyone from the Brooklyn Philharmonic to Björk, from the Arditti String Quartet to A Tribe Called Quest. He’s collaborated with poets (Amiri Baraka, Ntozake Shange), choreographers (Ron Brown, Marlies Yearby), actors and authors (Anna Deavere Smith, Patricia J. Williams), and pop stars (Mos Def, Me’shell Ndegeocello). Oliver has recorded over thirty albums as a leader and countless others as a co-leader or sideperson.
Oliver has been involved at The Jazz Gallery for years, and served for a time as a mentor to the young composers in our commissioning program. We really look forward to welcoming him back with two separate trios this Friday, October 26th and Saturday, October 27th. Friday’s performance will feature the dual drummer configuration of Reggie Nicholson and Bill McCleland, while you can expect to hear his organ trio with Jared Gold and the drummer Chris Beck on Saturday. You don’t have to take our word for it – both events have been selected as Critics’ Picks by The New York Times and Time Out New York.
Watch a video of the Oliver Lake Big Band performing at The Jazz Gallery in 2007.