Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Oliver Lake Big Band - Wheels (Passin' Thru Records, 2013)

Saxophonist and composer Oliver Lake has had a fascinating career, helping to form the Black Artists Group in St. Louis to working in the Loft Scene and the World Saxophone Quartet. He’s also led an active solo career, recording in a number of formats, including this disc, a large ensemble album. The arrangement and solo spacing on this album is quite snappy, this is far from some retro big band but a hard charging group of musicians playing in the moment. After the introductory “Drum Thing,” the music builds in the powerful “Is It Real” where ascending horn patterns ramp up the energy before making way for some springing saxophone solos. It’s a gas when the whole group comes back together, weathering squalls of potent collective improvisation. “Philly Blues” takes a relatively simple idea and embroiders it with a taut alto saxophone solo and fine spots for brass and tenor saxophone. “Wheels Suite” ties all of these divergent threads together in a lengthy performance that ebbs and flows from strength to patience and from solo spotlights to group movements. Fast and punchy “Clicker” takes a choppy motif and builds a complex tapestry of music. “The Whole World” opens the music up to a swinging strut with riffing horns and percussive darting piano setting the stage for individual statements. This was a very solid record and should be definitely kept in mind for fans of a progressive big band sound. Wheels - amazon.com

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