We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Oliver Lake may not be the first name in jazz, but the alto saxophone player has pulled off at least one feat that few other horn players have: He made decent jazz records during the ’80s. As a member of the World Saxophone Quartet, Lake consistently released—and sold—forward-thinking music full of free improvisation and complex harmony during a time when his best contemporaries had either died or become lost in a quiet storm of retro swill and fusion noodling. But there’s more to Oliver Lake than merely not sucking—Lake’s achievements as a solo artist are numerous. A dexterous and informed musician, he can play deep, spiritual free jazz and Ellington standards with equal aplomb. He’s worked with the Flux Quartet and Eugene Chadbourne, arranged brass for Björk, and played on a Lou Reed record (albeit one loaded with nonhits like “Egg Cream”). He’s been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2006 Mellon Jazz Legacy Award, and he even has some pretty mean reggae chops. Lake isn’t as recognizable as, say, Eric Dolphy, but his career has been longer, fuller, and more unpredictable—and he’s still going. Lake will perform as part of the Kennedy Center Jazz series with his latest Organ Quintet, which features a lineup of Hammond B-3, drums, trumpet, and a DJ. The Oliver Lake Organ Quintet performs at 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Gallery, 2700 F St. NW. $25. (202) 467-4600.