The Troy Street Observer

April 17, 1988: Oliver Lake’s Tribute to Eric Dolphy

Oliver Lake concert program
Program for Oliver Lake’s tribute to Dolphy at the Somerville Theater

The Oliver Lake Nonet and Big Band presented a tribute to Eric Dolphy at the Somerville Theatre on April 17, 1988.

While the Jazz Coalition was producing  Jazz All Night and the Jazz Celebrations concert series, it was also using grant money to commission new work. This ambitious 1988 program was an example of that, with Lake-the-composer funded by the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities, and Lake-the-performer funded by the New England Foundation for the Arts.

Eric Dolphy, who died in 1964, did not visit Boston too often. There was a notable week at Connolly’s in December 1962, leading a quartet featuring Herbie Hancock. He’s better known, perhaps, through his musical associations with Jaki Byard, Roy Haynes, and Tony Williams.

Oliver Lake, a founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet, was an unabashed Dolphy admirer, and already had one Dolphy tribute to his name (the 1980 LP, The Prophet). He surely welcomed this commission to write a new work in Dolphy’s honor. Lake composed all the music played that night, and composed at least one long piece, “Dedicated to Dolphy,” for the occasion.

The evening brought together two groups of musicians. There were longtime Lake associates such as fellow WSQ saxophonist John Stubblefield, drummer Pheeroan ak Laff, pianist Michelle Rosewoman, and trumpeter Baikida E.J. Carroll, from Lake’s hometown of St. Louis. A second group of players met in Boston and by 1988 were spread between Boston and New York: saxophonists Greg Osby, Marty Erlich, Matt Darriau, and Jay Branford; trumpeters Stanton Davis and Ken Cervenka; and trombonist Frank Lacy. It was a powerful ensemble.

Lake’s Nonet played the first half of the show, things like “West African Snap” and “France Dance” that had seen their debuts in other times and with other bands. The second half featured four pieces for the big band, including “Dedicated to Dolphy,” clocking in at about 18:30. All the music was recorded, and two of the big band numbers, “Weave Song II” and “Dedicated to Dolphy,” were released on Lake’s 1989 Gramavision LP, Otherside.

Couldn’t find the concert music online, but here Oliver Lake plays “Spirit,” solo, on alto—a master of his instrument.

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