[Passin' Thru, www.passinthru.org]

Time Being

[Intakt Records, www.intaktrec.ch]

Saxophonist Oliver Lake is a figure on whom I've shored much praise over the years. Whether in a live scenario or in a studio, his strength as a leader and composer shines through each and every time. Recorded back in 2001 at the Knitting Factory, "Live" sees Lake shake things up with Native American vocalist and flautist Mary Redhouse. I'm not sure if Lake's initial idea was to mix jazz and native elements or whether he intended the two to sit comfortably side by side. The result is nonetheless quite awe-inspiring. As he dishes out jazz numbers that impersonate Native American ceremonies and those that are true Native American pieces without jazz elements, you realize early on, he's quite serious about the task at hand. The winner here is "Montana Grass Song", which is a real powwow, traditional Navajo song. As Redhouse improvises with her delicately soaring vocals, Lake plays some stunning solos as in a form of embrace. Another stunning number is Lake / Redhouse duet "Levels". As Redhouse gives out owl-like sounds from deep inside her throat, Lake stuns with some warm improvised passages. Throughout, Lake is his usual self - playing it rough and bursting out in guttural soprano shouts, and then playing nice rhythms when those are most appropriate. Drummer Gene Lake has some nice polyrhythmic moments, but sadly bassist Santi Debriano is barely felt [due to the cavernous mix]. Though this may not be a great live record, it's still quite a solid Oliver Lake recording.
When I first witnessed a concert by Trio 3 back in the mid 90's at FIMAV, I thought this was going to be a one-off occasion. Getting saxophonist Oliver Lake, bassist Reggie Workman and percussionist Andrew Cyrille together on one stage seemed like the perfect coup. Their sound was full, while at the same time it felt relaxed. It felt improvised, while most pieces were actually composed. Ten years on and a few albums later, Trio 3 return with another winner. Just like a decade ago, most piece sound improvised, though in fact they're credited to one or all three of the players. Lake has more fervour now than ever before. Both alto and soprano wails he draws out are fiery and persistently bouncy. He doesn't simply go for the jugular, but maintains a steady pacing of colourful playing. Led by Cyrille's light, feathery touch and supplemented by Workman's deep arco and string slapping bass playing, the rhythm section is killer as always. Cyrille doesn't just keep time, he transcends it. The cymbal waifs and the smashing hi-hat meditations leave one in a state of awe. His percussive precision and looseness are now even more evident and more mature than ever before. Solid showing from all three players. Though World Saxophone Quartet's glory days may long be gone, Oliver Lake continues to shine on.

- Tom Sekowski

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