The idea that the compositional style of Oliver Lake – his affectations, if you like – lends itself to an orchestral palimpsest is not at all inconceivable. The recording called Justice is proof of this. It is a highly credible endeavour; one made exceedingly beautiful and noble by the Kevin Diehl and the Sonic Liberation Front. The recording is enhanced by the addition of the four-voice chorale who deliver a poignant performance which is documented, on two occasions, by dark vocal harmonies behind the recitation of two of Mr Lake’s poems, by the poet himself.
The theme is Justice [of course!] – or, more ironically, the lack of it in the United States – when it comes to Black Americans, and other visible ethnic minorities, as well as discrimination of every kind; something that has – and continues to – put a death-like stranglehold on the country’s humanity. But what is unusual [perhaps because the theme is so dark] is that throughout the music hope springs eternal.
This questing emotion is masterfully infused into the music with a myriad of passages of über-harmonic vocalastics, and long humming choruses that whoosh like the rustling of raw silk through instrumentation that often embedded in gestures such as preternatural dissonance, distortion [by the horns] and elemental wailing [by violin and contrabass] punctuated by the hiss of cymbals and the rattle and roar of the drums.
Mr Lake conducts the music to which the Sonic Liberation Front [who commissioned it] and the Sonic Liberation Singers respond superbly. All concerned turn in a performance that is daring, imaginative, technically superb, and demanding to be heard. This is music that contains multitudes – open to limitless interpretative possibilities, all of which the performers appear to have grasped, as they sweep through them, bringing each of the possibilities to life.
The exuberance of the instrumental works and the drama of those which invite the singers to swoop down in to are both riveting. Listen, for instance, to the lip-smacking relish with which all parties bring out the velocissimo in the tutti section of the piece What. Or the sopra una corda slides when the sense of tension is heightened in Justice, or the way the players, ornamenting extravagantly, almost seem to tumble over each other on Clouds.
Disruptive? Yes, but also imaginative, unexpected and part of the conception that makes every ornament and bit of passagework [on that piece and elsewhere] part of a vivid, forward-moving conversation. The Sonic Liberation Front [and Singers] do delicacy too; listen to how naturally they place the gritty melodies in silken harmonic formation and palpitating rhythm – especially when Mr Lake recites his poems: Ain’t Nothin Real BUT Love and especially Lucky One [Where U Is, Is Where U At].
These are stylish, faithful accounts of these eight exquisite works which – especially if one is an avid follower of Mr Lake’s work ever since the fame and fortunes of the World Saxophone Quartet and the Flux String Quartet – one will find oneself returning to repeatedly. All for the sheer pleasure of a vision of Oliver Lake as explorer, innovator and entertainer who fills one with hope and joy.
Tracks – 1: What; 2: Ain’t Nothin’ Real BUT Love; 3: Aztec; 4: Justice; 5: Clouds; 6: Dedicated; 7: Round 2000; 8: Lucky One [Where U Is, Is Where U At]
Musicians – Oliver Lake: composer, conductor, and poetry. Sonic Liberation Front – Kevin Diehl: drums and sensory percussion, and instigator; Veronica Jurkiewicz: violin; Jameka Gordon: flute; Elliot Levin: tenor saxophone; Matt Engle: contrabass. Sonic Liberation Singers – Shanon Chua: soprano; Chaela Harris: alto; Ravi Seenarine: tenor; Michael Ford: baritone
Released – 2022
Label – High Two
Runtime – 40:42