Today I saw an even-slicker-than-usual Wynton Marsalis hawking iPods, laying out lines of boppish exactitude for the conspicuous consumption of moneyed hipsters. It’s the 21st century, baby. Even in jazz, surface is all. Blood and guts are so 1979.
Oliver Lake might disagree.
Lake’s latest reminds us that perfection is overrated. Vulnerability is the magic ingredient separating the ultracompetent from the truly visionary. On this—a casually recorded live date from 2001 with a quartet that includes bassist Santi Debriano, drummer Gene Lake and vocalist/wood flutist Mary Redhouse—Lake burns with the combination of skill, swagger and sensitivity that characterizes his generation of top-rank jazz musicians.
The tunes (mostly Lake originals) range conceptually from angular free-bop to pointillist expressionism and adaptations of traditional Navajo songs. It’s smart music with a heartbeat: physical, rough-edged and inspired. Most important, it’s real—reason enough to recommend it unreservedly.