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Oliver Lake: Movement, Turns and Switches

Among the major figures in the ’70s experimental scene, alto saxophonist/composer Oliver Lake continues to evolve. He’s composed all six of the pieces on this CD for groups ranging from a duo with pianist Donal Fox and violinist Regina Carter to a septet composed of a string quartet, alto sax, bass and congas. Other tracks feature Lake with the string quartet and with a string quartet plus trumpeter Kenyatta Beasley. There’s plenty of improvisation on these selections, but it’s blended seamlessly into the written passages.

Although associated with the free jazz movement, Lake and other participants here base their improvisation on pre-set structures for the most part, e.g. chord changes on “Fan Fare Bop” and “Reminds Me,” and cells of notes and an ostinato figure on “Movement, Turns and “Switches.” There’s modal based improvising on “Maasai Moves.” “Aztec Tu” does contain open improvisation by Lake, and the mostly written “Input” has a free collective improvisation section.

The mood varies quite a bit here. “Fan Fare Bop” contains some boppish improvised and written work. “Aztec Tu” and “Reminds Me” have pretty themes. “Movement, Turns and Switches” is marked by twentieth century modern classical music.

The solo work is uniformly laudable. Lake exhibits chops now that are better than ever. He’s got a bright, attractive tone and improvises pretty, song-like phrases in addition to the many-note runs containing high note screams he’s noted for. Trumpeter Beasley displays excellent technique and fresh ideas. Though from New Orleans, he’s not a reactionary like Wynton Marsalis, Nicholas Peyton or Marlon Jordan. The gifted Fox and Carter deliver the goods on their feature. One of Lake’s best albums.

Originally Published