“Lake a big thinker with a taste for large ensembles that can show off his meaty compositions and his sure sense of coloring” The New Yorker
Whether painting or composing major commissioned works for the Pro Music Chamber Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Arditti and Flux String Quartets, World Sax Quartet, San Francisco Contemporary Players; arranging for pop diva Bjork, rocker Lou Reed, rap group A Tribe Called Quest; collaborating with poets Ntozake Shange, Huang Xiang, choreographers Ron Brown and Marlies Yearby, Native American vocalist Mary Redhouse, writer/law professor Patricia Williams; hip-hop artist Mos Def, pop star Me’Shell Ndegeocello; or leading his own groups and touring with cooperative ensembles, the World Saxophone Quartet and TRIO 3; Oliver Lake views it all as “Parts of the same whole.”
Lake attributes his diverse musical styles and multifaceted creativity to his early experience with the Black Artists Group (BAG), the legendary multi-disciplined and innovative St. Louis collective of poets and musicians he co-founded 35 years ago. Lake also co-founded the prestigious World Saxophone Quartet, and continues to collaborate with many notable choreographers, poets and a veritable who’s who of the progressive jazz scene of the late 20th century, performing throughout the US, Europe, Japan, Africa and Australia. In 1988, Lake founded his record label, Passin’ Thru, and Passin’ Thru Inc., a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, dedicated to the fostering, promoting and advancing the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Jazz.
A recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, Lake is one of the most heavily commissioned composers to emerge from the jazz tradition. Other honors include the Mellon Jazz Living Legacy Award at The Kennedy Center 2006, and the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium’s Jazz Impact Award.
Currently, Lake tours with his organ quartet, big band, steel quartet, the WSQ and TRIO 3, and continues to compose for all of his collaborations.
“The modern big-band sound funnels directly back to the Count Basie band from the 1950’s, with its pinpoint blending of reeds and brass and dynamic drumming. Not Mr. Lake’s. He mixes blues and gospel, funk and free; but his free jazz is never maundering. He likes players with a sense of humor and style; his pieces explode with bursts of chaotic energy but don’t lose direction.” – Ben Ratliff, The New York Times