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Meet Oliver Lake

By Published: November 4, 2004
New CD Requiem for Julius (Justin Time Records)

I think it's one of our better CD's. Lately we have been putting out CD's that either involved a rhythm section or African drums. We hadn't put one out in two or three CD's that was just the World Saxophone Quartet, just the four of us. We chose this as a dedication to Julius, his spirit and his energy, as the main composer in the World Saxophone Quartet when he was in the group. We're playing our compositions that are dedicated to him. There are a lot of contemplative pieces, ballads, more than we would ordinarily put on a CD. That just kind of happened—it's not an attempt to get back to the way we played when Julius was in the band. We have a different sound now because John Purcell is playing soprano, and he's also bringing in some of his compositions. I hope people will listen to the CD and enjoy it.

Business aspects

The system only chooses a few jazz musicians to become really rich. Most of us do it for the love of it. Of course we make our living at it as well. If you want to survive you have to know how to take care of the business aspects of music. Whether it's making your own CD, putting a brochure together, sending out a press release, or returning someone's mail on time. It's 90% business 10% creativity (laughs). Ever since I stopped teaching school many years ago I've survived from playing music. I feel very fortunate to do that.

Passin' Thru Records

I started my own record company, Passin' Thru. I have four CD's out now. I think it's important that musicians take control of their destinies. Especially now that everybody has a recording studio in their home and can hand you a CD at a moment's notice. The big companies have a tendency to go with trends. There was a trend to just hire the young saxophonist twenty years old in a three-piece suit copying music that had happened exactly twenty years before that. Those were the guys that were in with the labels.

Consequently that knocked out a lot of guys like myself who were older and not regurgitating the music exactly like it had gone down before without creating anything particularly new. We were doing creative things, playing our own pieces. You know—in the same spirit as Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Duke Ellington. Rather than being at the mercy of some record company executives the playing field has gotten a lot more level in terms of being able to do business. Also in this business you have to market yourself, you have to get your work out to more people. I have been active in doing that in my career. This record label I'm quite excited about. I have a partner, Richard Franklin, who is not a musician. We have a CD and a video available of the theatre piece. We have planned to put out four more CD's this year. One will be a quintet featuring Geri Allen on Piano. Another one is the first solo CD by my son Gene Lake, a drummer. He's the regular drummer now with David Sanborn. Jay Hoggard, a wonderful vibes player—his quartet will be releasing one. Trio Three is another group I'm part of—Reggie Workman on bass, Andrew Cyrille on drums, and myself. Trio Three will be releasing a CD on Passin' Thru this year as well. So it's quite ambitious for a small, independent label to put out 4 CD's in a year.

Oliver Lake Big band

It's rare that I get a chance to perform with my big band, but we've been at Sweet Basil for a month of Mondays in March. I haven't actually recorded this band, but I've got a great group of improvisers. I've been revising the piece you heard at the IAJE Convention in January, 1999. I want to record the band on my label so I have to raise funds to pay 17 musicians and go into the studio for a couple of days. It's going to be a challenge. Hopefully I'll be able to do it next year.

Oliver Lake Steel Quartet

I'll be touring in May with my Steel Quartet where I'm using a steel drummer, electric bass, drums, and saxophone. We'll be going to Europe for a couple of weeks. We're doing things that are Caribbean influenced, things with a straight jazz edge—originals, pieces by Mingus and Coltrane—and things that can't be categorized. I'm using the steel pan in a way I haven't heard it used. I've been doing a lot of work around the tri-state area with that band. Our CD Kinda' Up came out on Justin Time the same week as Requiem for Julius.

Bloomfield College

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