Composer and saxophonist Oliver Lake, co-founder of the iconic World Saxophone Quartet—the saxes-only ensemble that spun through a mix of styles, from gospel to free jazz in the late seventies and eighties’ loft-jazz scene—revives that spirit with the alto sax quartet, Alto Madness. With Lake as performer and composer, the ensemble features titan saxophonists Bruce Williams, Darius Jones, and Michaël Attias, completed by drum master Pheeroan akLaff.
In this rare appearance—the third since the ensemble formed in 2014—Alto Madness will premiere Oliver Lake’s composition: Tone Poem 4 J.A.H. Re-arranged in 2019 for this ensemble, this piece was originally written in 2007 for the World Saxophone Quartet and is dedicated to one of its co-founders, jazz composer and saxophonist Julius Hemphill (1938–1995).
Oliver Lake, alto sax
Bruce Williams, alto sax
Darius Jones, alto sax
Michaël Attias, alto sax
Pheeroan akLaff, drums
Darius Jones is an alto saxophonist, composer, and producer. His repertoire includes compositions and performances in electro-acoustic music, chamber ensembles, contemporary and avant-garde jazz groups, modern dance performances, and multi-media events. Darius collaborates with artists including Trevor Dunn’s Proof Readers, Angelica Sanchez, William Parker, the Oliver Lake Big Band, Mike Pride’s From Bacteria to Boys, Lewis Barnes’ Hampton Roads, Taylor Ho Bynum, William Hooker, Ben Gerstein, and the Mara Rosenbloom Quartet. In 2008, Darius produced a record for Korean jazz vocalist Sunny Kim titled Android Ascension, which was released on Korean label YDS Music. He also produced a record, Sugar, for country-folk artist Mary Bragg in 2008. Darius’ music takes him around the US, Europe and Canada with performances in the Vision Festival, Just Music Festival, Rumor Festival, Sons D’hiver Festival, Saalfelden Jazz Festival, FONT Festival, New Languages Festival, JVC Festival, Terrastock Festival, and others. Darius was nominated for a Jazz Journalists Association Award for 2009 Up and Coming Artist and was one of Jazz Times’ Debut Artists of the Year for 2009.
Michaël Attias is a saxophonist/composer based in New York City since 1994. As a leader, he has released seven critically-acclaimed albums, most recently the 2017 Clean Feed debut of the Michaël Attias Quartet, Nerve Dance, with Aruán Ortiz, John Hébert, and Nasheet Waits. As a sideman, he has performed and recorded for such luminaries as Anthony Braxton, Paul Motian, Oliver Lake, Anthony Coleman, Tony Malaby, and countless others. In April 2019, he will release his first solo album, échos la nuit, on the Brooklyn label Out of Your Head Records.
A versatile drummer who has mostly been associated with the avant-garde, Pheeroan akLaff has appeared with some of the more adventurous musicians in jazz of the past 20 years. Early on, he played with Jay Hoggard (1975) and then in New Haven, CT, with Leo Smith’s New Dalta Ahkri. In addition to a longtime association with altoist Oliver Lake (including work with the reggae group Jump Up), akLaff has worked with Henry Threadgill’s Sextet, New Air (where he replaced Steve McCall for New Air’s last couple of recordings during 1983-1986), George Adams, Sonny Sharrock, Anthony Davis, James Newton, Cecil Taylor, and Myra Melford. akLaff has recorded as a leader for Gramavision (an obscure EP in 1983) and Mu (1989).
Alto saxophonist Bruce Williams is a bright and versatile voice on today’s jazz scene. Making his name as a sideman with the Count Basie Orchestra, Russell Gunn, Frank Foster, Roy Hargrove, Cecil Brooks, Jimmy Scott, Papo Vasquez, and the World Saxophone Quartet. He also has three CD’s a leader and appears on over thirty other recordings and video projects. Bruce is a crafty, soulful, and intelligent improvisor.
Saxophonist and composer Oliver Lake’s artistic vision remains daring, unique, and uncompromising. From his role as founder of The Black Artists Group in 1968, he has immersed himself in the creation of art in all disciplines. As a longstanding and preeminent saxophonist in the progressive jazz scene, Oliver has thrived during his long and storied career. He continues to work with several brilliant and creative minds, such as his Organ Quartet and Big Band groups, the World Saxophone Quartet, Tarbaby, and notable collaborators such as Flux String Quartet, Myra Melford, Roscoe Mitchell, Vijay Iyer, Geri Allen, Meshell Ndegeocello, and many others. Oliver has curated and participated in the City Of Asylum’s Jazz Poetry concerts for more than ten years. Lake has been a recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, has received commissions from the Library of Congress, and in 2006, was honored to receive the Mellon Jazz Living Legacy Award at the Kennedy Center. Most notably, Oliver was selected to receive the prestigious 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award. As such, the coming years promise to be exciting and filled with bold new artistic endeavors.