OLIVER LAKE — Life Dance Of Is (review)

OLIVER LAKE — Life Dance Of Is album cover Album · 1978 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
js
Oliver Lake was an early participant in the St Louis avant-garde scene, and later a major figure in the NYC loft scene of the early 70s. By the time the late 70s rolled around, he like so many others in the free jazz movement, were starting to diversify their sound as free jazz was becoming a bit predictable. This leads us to the album, “Life Dance of Is”, a mostly avant-garde collection with a good dose of free jazz, but also some other interesting eclecticisms. It’s a very talented band that Oliver assembled here, many of these musicians he had worked with before and would continue to perform with in the future. We have Michael Gregory Jackson on guitar, Anthony Davis on piano, Pheeroan ak Laff on drums and some tracks include Leonard Jones on bass.

The album opens with the sparse sounds of “Rite-Ing” in which various band members play composed snatches of melody in between long moments of silence. Follow up track “Comous” is a little more in the free jazz tradition, but implied beats give this one a funhouse rowdy nature, like a hard bop jam gone insane. Side one closes out with “Shu-Ful” another fun one that has the band playing to a punky two beat shuffle and laying down wacky solos. Oliver seems to be channeling Eric Dolphy on this one.

Side two opens with “Tfon” and an impossibly difficult ensemble bebop line before the group lays into some free improv. Towards the end, Anthony Davis plays what sounds like a closing phrase but then keeps repeating it as the others join in hammering this phrase to death. “Change One” is a one chord reggae vamp with some weird vocals from Lake and bluesy country harmonica from Jackson. The album closes with a spoken word collage that would sound right at home in a modern concert hall setting. Interesting album, sometimes dry and intellectual, and at other times boisterous and funny. This may not have ever been re-issued on CD or in any other format, so look for it where used vinyl is sold.
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