SFAR Records

Oliver Lake – alto saxophone, voice; Mathias Landaeus – Grand Piano, prepared grand piano; Kresten Osgood – Drums, kalimba, recorder

American saxophonist Oliver Lake’s fifty year career has seen him playing with so many of the jazz greats from Anthony Braxton, Andrew Cyrille, William Parker, Vijay Dyer, and many others. He formed the World Saxophone Quartet, along with David Murray, Julius Hemphill, and Hamiet Bluiett.

He’s collaborated with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Bjork, Lou Reed, A Tribe Called Quest. He’s a composer, a painter, he’s published two poetry books. His book shelves must be filled with the many awards he’s received over the years.

Lake has over eighty recordings as leader. You should listen to SPIRIT, his latest. It’s a live concert from 2017. SPIRIT is a trio with Oliver Lake, pianist Mathias Landaeus, and drummer Kresten Osgood. Osgood had played with Lake. Landaeus, was a fan, but had never played with the saxophonist.

The four songs on SPIRIT may have started with themes from Lake’s compositions but almost all the music is improvised. Landaeus said Oliver would play a theme and “we were trusted to interpret on the spot.”

Landæus has put out twenty albums as a leader. He lived in New York for a while, where he studied with Jaki Byard and Richie Beirach. On his return to Sweden he became an important figure on the Stockholm jazz scene.

’Spirit ’is the title track and at eighteen minutes it sounds absolutely primal. Oliver Lake chants “Spirit won’t you come on in the house.” There are hand claps and little else till Lake’s horn sounds like he’s pulling the spirit in kicking and screaming.

I couldn’t help thinking about some of those angry horn players from the seventies; Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, and Frank Lowe. Landaeus’s piano and the call and response with Lake add a bluesy tension that works. Osgood’s percussion work with his bells, gongs, and cymbals offset the fiery storm going on around him.

Lake sounds like he’s searching for something on ‘Bonu.’ His tone’s pretty. Landaeus’s left hand bangs out block chords while his right sticks with single note runs on the upper keys. Things do get pretty intense; pounding piano keys, smacked snare drums, sax skronks and squeaks until ‘Bonu ’settles back into that placid place it started from.

SPIRIT sat on the shelf until pianist Mathias Landaus could put out the music on his own label. Here’s what Oliver Lake said about the 2017 concert. “It was great to perform with old friend Kresten and my new friend Mathias. We had very good musical communications on that night. Hope you enjoy.”