Deservedly restored to print, these recordings are central to the respective discographies of Oliver Lake and the longstanding collaboration between Anthony Braxton and Richard Teitelbaum (Silence was first issued on the English Freedom label, but was not part of the important Arista-Freedom series of the mid and late '70s that included both Time Zones and Heavy Spirits). The combination of Silence and Time Zones on a single disc makes it an especially good buy. All three albums are as invigorating today as they were when first released more than 20 years ago.
Recorded in the heady Paris summer of '69, Silence is the only album Braxton recorded featuring the ostensibly co-op trio with violinist Leroy Jenkins and trumpeter Leo Smith that did not feature Braxton's compositions. Jenkins' "Off The Top Of My Head" is thematically well-grounded, allowing the trio to peel off layers of the lyrical materials in a loose counterpoint, and to propel the piece with the shifting timbres afforded by their arsenal of "little instruments." Smith's title piece juxtaposes short sound events and long periods of silence to create a remarkably coherent fabric.
Originally issued under Teitelbaum's name, Time Zones consists of two pieces recorded in '76, one of which-"Crossings"-documents a concert at the fabled Creative Music Studio. Teitelbaum is in a class by himself when it comes to improvising with synthesizers. His ability to morph from horn-like voice to viscous texture, to melt between foreground and background, and to incite inspired improvisations from Braxton (especially an alto solo at the end of "Crossings," which unravels from desultory lyricism to an eerie reed effect), is thoroughly engaging.
Recorded in '75, Heavy Spirits remains one of the best, if not the best album Lake has ever made. His richly vocal, post-Dolphy alto style was already fully formed; he is fluid on a trio piece with trombonist Joseph Bowie and drummer Bobo Shaw, and intensely focused on a solo reading of Julius Hemphill's "Lonely Blacks." His compositional abilities were equally impressive, both with a conventional quintet (with trumpeter Olu Dara, pianist Donald Smith, bassist Stafford James and drummer Victor Lewis) and, showing substantial conceptual daring, with a trio with violinists Al Philemon Jones and Steve Peisch.