|Lake’s trio functioned on a democratic basis. “I‘m not the boss. One of our concepts is that we try to have an interplay. It’s not me being accompanied by the others. Pheeroan may start something that I’ll pick up on. From that Michael may add something, and then it will just keep on evolving and changing. We will sound like one flowing thing. It’s me (and sometimes Michael) writing the tunes, but we are all on an equal level in terms of where the music is coming from. We’ve been working together for three and a half years and are very sympathetic to each other. I feel very, very comfortable. We tune into each other and are very open inside. We play a melody and then try to go into other areas. I don’t like to structure the middle part because that’s where improvisation comes in. A preconceived structure would restrict us.”
- Jurg Solothummann
Despite more than a handful of records made for American and Canadian labels – and even an Italian one – the Midwestern (born in Arkansas, raised in St. Louis) musician Oliver Lake had never played the Willisau Jazz Festival and wasn’t yet known to a broader European public. But in the late summer of 1979 he appeared there twice: with the World Saxophone Quartet and his own unique trio. Those performances remain among my deepest and lasting impressions of many Willisau highlights over the past 17 years.
Imagine the busy festival atmosphere in Willisau’s wooden market hall, with a buzzing crowd animated by vigorous, dense performances and reunions with like-minded friends from previous years. And in the midst of that, at the end of the Saturday evening, an unknown American trio – without a bass to mark the beat – creating such a special feeling. Can a group be complete without a bass, especially at a time when popular music is dominated by monster disco and funk basses? This recording proves that it can if we are ready to accept music that subtly hints and isn’t crudely explicit all of the time. But perhaps the unusual character of the trio is also an explanation why the group dissolved soon after this concert. Until now, it has been documented on record with only two pieces on Shine (Arista-Novus). And yet, this unobtrusive, quiet concert foreshadowed a lot to come in the music of the eighties. Oliver Lake, Michael Gregory Jackson and Pheeroan akLaff (Paul Maddox) didn’t seem to be pressed by time. Rather, they took their time and molded it in various ways. There is a deep breath going through all of the melodies and sounds.