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Oliver Lake / Christian Weber / Dieter Ulrich: All Decks

John Sharpe By

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So successful was the off-the-cuff meeting that produced For A Little Dancin' (Intakt, 2010) that American reedman Oliver Lake once again renewed acquaintance with the Swiss pairing of drummer Oliver Lake / Christian Weber / Dieter Ulrich and bassist Christian Weber at Zurich's unerhört Festival. But this time out they rang the changes by adding German trombonist Nils Wogram. So far so normal, but it's about as far from a star and pick up band as you can get. Lake, renowned as a founder member of the pioneering World Saxophone Quartet and the still current Trio 3, willingly subsumes himself to a democratic group ethos which finds him riffing gently in support of trombone acrobatics or throwing in acerbic tags to unfurling unisons. By way of recompense, his taut throaty alto saxophone appears in some wonderfully sympathetic settings where he can indulge his penchant for contrasting dissonant shrieks with more bittersweet fare as he leaps between registers.

Wogram proves a forthright foil for the reedman, exploiting the expressive power of his horn to the full with boisterous slurs, outrageously bent notes and vocalized inflections especially with mute in hand. Both Swiss are more than at home skipping between inside and outside. That facility, playing to Lake's strengths, constitutes one of the features which makes this unit such a winning combination. Weber possesses a muscular sound and recalls English bassist John Edwards in his amalgam of rhythmic acumen with timbral inventiveness, particularly when wielding the bow.

It's not a blowing date as the American supplied a sheaf of charts which form the backbone of the set, along with additional material from Wogram and Ulrich, as well as a lone standard. Lake's title track benefits from a novel structure which starts by contrasting free bass/drum dialogue with contrapuntal interludes for alto saxophone and trombone, before letting both off the leash. More circumspect is the German's "Listen To Your Woman" where he showcases his lyrical side, becoming almost smoochy at times. Wogram also shines at the outset of the drummer's "Oddy-C" in an extravaganza of buzzing multiphonics pitched against clean shouted interjections.

But they save the best to last, as the saxophonist's clarion call announces an astonishing reworking of the Ellington/Strayhorn classic "Johnny Come Lately" which would be near unrecognizable by any but the most astute listener. Lake continues in a typically astringent outpouring accompanied by roiling drums before handing on the baton for garrulous trombone and slashing arco bass to take out this fine disc in style.

Track Listing: All Decks; Listen To Your Woman; Sketch 4 Four; Oddy-C; Rollin' Vamp; Johnny Come Lately.

Personnel: Oliver Lake: alto saxophone; Christian Weber: bass; Dieter Ulrich: drums; Nils Wogram: trombone.

Title: All Decks | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Intakt Records


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