Jazz CD Reviews
Oliver Lake Organ Trio – Makin’ It – Passin’ Thru Records
Published on September 9, 2008
Oliver Lake Organ Trio – Makin’ It – Passin’ Thru Records 41225, 51:38 ****:
(Oliver Lake: Alto Saxophone; Jared Gold: Hammond B3 Organ; Johnathan Blake: Drums; Jahi Lake: Producer)
On his latest effort, Makin’ It, saxophonist Oliver Lake proves he is still open to trying new things. On past undertakings Lake has led a quartet featuring steel pan and utilizing Caribbean influences, composed and performed with a string ensemble, and adopted Native American music into his far-reaching audio palette. Here, Oliver puts his unique stamp on the organ jazz trio format. While the ten tracks have a soulful core befitting such an endeavor, Lake remains an unpredictable soloist, peppering the material with his piercing tone, nimble-fingered solos, and spiky alto sax playing.
Makin’ It (released on Lake’s own label) is not pointedly abstract or avant-garde: the melodic offering is accessible without losing the experimental edge Lake has brought to previous releases. On most pieces, such as “Dedicated to B.C.” and the opener “In Walked John,” Lake is front and center, with Jared Gold’s Hammond B3 organ usefully establishing a rhythmic groove, often while also applying bass pedals to accentuate the beat. Throughout, Johnathan Blake keeps a keen, vigorous swing.
Lake gives room for Gold to shine on extended breaks during a vibrant take on Malachi Thompson’s “In Walked John,” head-bopping “Say Girl” and particularly on a lengthy keyboard monologue in the middle section of the title track. Gold doesn’t compare to Jack McDuff or Jimmy Smith, but he shows a developing talent and deserves wider recognition for helping preserve the B3 sound for a new jazz generation.
The trio ends with a lyrical adaptation of the traditional gospel hymn “I Want to Walk with Jesus.” The tune begins deliberate and revenant, Lake’s alto sax and Gold’s B3 acting as devout and signifying tools. At the halfway point, drums tick in and the after-hours funk starts flying. Understated spiritualism takes a turn toward soulful passion, the trio marketing a muscular propulsion that echoes Jimmy McGriff’s down-home disposition.
That same kind of underlying late-night grit and salivation pervades Makin’ It, earning this album high marks for laying down a bopping groove. Long-term Lake fans, however, may scratch their heads, wondering where the Albert Ayler-ish structures found on seminal records such as Heavy Spirits have gone. Lake’s son, Jahi Lake, sat in the producer’s seat. He affords his father abundant amplification and doesn’t blunt Blake’s enticing drive, but Gold is sometimes too low in the mix.
1 In Walked John
3 Say Girl
4 Spirit Of Man
5 Nu Peace
6 Move Groove
7 Makin’ it
8 Dedicated To B.C.
9 Olla’s Blues
10 I Want To Walk with Jesus
— Doug Simpson