Oliver Lake & Jump Up
The ’80s are proving highly fertile for jazz. In the avant-garde it’s a period of synthesis. David Murray, for instance, is reconciling the freedom of the ’60s with the verities of blues and swing, while Oliver Lake commingles the esoterica of improvisation with the mass appeal of dance rhythms, reggae and—wonder of wonders—lyrics. Both men are members of the unique World Saxophone Quartet but pursue solo careers too. Murray is maturing into the most stimulating spokesman for new developments in tenor sax since John Coltrane. Like every young tenor player, he’s absorbed Trane’s “sheets of sound” harmonics, but Murray has come out sounding like himself, with a rounder, less obsessive tone and a more exuberant style. He is also one of the few players who can soar into the overtones above the horn’s natural range and pursue a melodic line, not just shriek. Murray’s Steps, on the Black Saint label, is more of a blowing showcase for him and his gifted cohorts than last year’s Home. But the contemplative Sweet Lovely reveals his neo-Ellingtonian vocabulary as a writer. Lake’s alto sax sets a festive tone on the latest disc by his quartet, Jump Up. His lyrics on his own tunes smack of Dale Carnegie and anti-nukism, but his adept musicianship puts pulsating new flesh on the familiar bones of funk and reggae. Breath of Life is a big, smoky, slow-bubbling cauldron of a song, as charismatic as it is simple.