The artistic scope of renowned saxophonist, composer, painter, and poet Oliver Lake’s half-century-long career is unparalleled. An extensive resume of his collaborations includes work with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Flux String Quartet, Bjork, Lou Reed, A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, Me’shell Ndegeocello, Anthony Braxton, James Blood Ulmer, William Parker, Vijay Iyer, Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille and a veritable who’s who of the jazz vanguard. Oliver’s efforts extend far beyond the music, with his creation of the non-profit Passin’ Thru organization, becoming a mainstay at Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum, publishing two books of poetry and frequently producing visual artwork for exhibitions across the country.
Lake’s breadth of disciplines can be traced back to his formative years with the Black Artists Group, the innovative St. Louis collective of musicians, poets, dancers and painters he helped architect over 35 years ago. As a co-founder of the internationally acclaimed World Saxophone Quartet (with fellow luminaries David Murray, Julius Hemphill and Hamiet Bluiett), Oliver firmly established himself in the “Loft” jazz scene of the 1970’s in New York City, and has since produced a body of work that is both expansive and versatile enough to avoid falling solely into the trappings of the “avant-garde” and “free” labels. The fact that his work can stand on compositional merit alone, all while he has etched a place for himself as one of the elite saxophone players and improvisers of recent times, is a testament to Oliver Lake’s stature as an artist.
Lake’s output as an exacting and unequivocally original composer has long been celebrated, highlighted by commissions awarded from the Library of Congress, the Rockefeller Foundation ASCAP, the International Association for Jazz Education, Composers Forum and the McKim Foundation. He has been the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and was also presented with the Mellon Jazz Living Legacy Award at the Kennedy Center in 2006.
In 2014, Oliver was honored with what is arguably the greatest recognition of his artistry and vision to date, becoming one of only nineteen grantees appointed for the prestigious Doris Duke Artist Award, a multi-year grant awarded to American artists in the fields of jazz, theater and dance.
A trailblazer through and through, Oliver Lake continues to produce in the vociferous, uncompromising way he only knows how to, currently immersed in the work of such adventurous ensembles as the Oliver Lake Organ Quartet, Oliver Lake Big Band and Trio 3.