Oliver Lake Ntu: Point From Which Creation Begins (1971)

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Soul Jazz Records/Universal Sound are reissuing jazz composer Oliver Lake's Ntu: The Point From Which Creation Begins, his stunning rhythmical Afro-centric deep spiritual jazz debut album originally recorded in 1971. This classic spiritual deep jazz album digitally remastered and cased in bespoke original artwork exact reproduction on hardboard Jap-style box case CD and a very limited (1000 worldwide) heavyweight 180gm audiophile vinyl edition.

This album features in Gilles Peterson/Soul Jazz Records’ own Freedom, Rhythm and Sound large-format book of revolutionary jazz.

Saxophonist Oliver Lake’s unique career path includes working with Lou Reed, A Tribe Called Quest, Bjork, composing for the Brooklyn Philharmonic and as long time member of the avant-garde jazz group World Saxophone Quartet. This genre-defying, wide-ranging and cross-pollinating creativity is a consequence of Lake’s musical roots in the radical Black Arts Movement of 1960s Afro-America.

Oliver Lake’s career began in a creatively charged time and place. In the late 1960s, Lake alongside Julius Hemphill and Charles ‘Bobo’ Shaw, co-founded The Black Artists Group (BAG), the St Louis-based equivalent to Chicago’s Art Ensemble of Chicago/Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians collective.

Out of this BAG collective came many other variant groups and arts projects which included The Human Arts Ensemble, Red Black & Green Solidarity Unit, Onawali Dancers, Malinque Rhythm Tribe, BAG Drama Dept., Great Black Music Orchestra of St. Louis, Fire-Earth-Air-Water, Me We & Them and the Julius Hemphill Quartet.

The first recordings from Oliver Lake and the Black Artist Group collective, true to keeping with the era’s radicalism, self-definition and economical empowerment value system, kept a wide birth from the mainstream music industry and were released on the private pressing record label, Universal Justice, self-distributed at concerts and events.

In 1971, after appearing on two collective projects by The Human Art Ensemble and Children of The Sun, Oliver Lake recorded his own debut album Ntu: The Point From Which Creation Begins, self-financed for release on his own Passin Thru’ record company. However, shortly afterwards the tape of this album was put in storage, as Lake and the other BAG members headed off to Europe in the path of The Art Ensemble of Chicago and other free jazz African-American musicians, many of whom were finding a new open-minded audience across the Atlantic.

Ntu: The Point From Which Creation Begins remained unreleased until 1976 when an association with major label Arista/Freedom issued a number of Lake and the Black Artists Group’s early releases and unreleased tapes. Long unavailable, this album has now itself become a rarity.

Heavily progressive, rhythmical and intense, the album features Lake alongside an all-star cast of St. Louis’s finest radical, avant-garde and deep jazz musicians which includes Joe Bowie (Lester’s brother, who also later formed Defunkt and worked with James White and The Blacks), Don Moye (on loan from the Art Ensemble of Chicago), and regulars such as Charles Bobo Shaw.

Lake returned from Europe to live in New York in the second-half of the 1970s to firmly ensconce himself in the emerging Loft Jazz scene, which soon became the dominant avant-garde movement of this era, and Lake an intrinsic member. At this time Lake also formed the World Saxophone Quartet alongside Julius Hemphill, Hamiet Bluiett and David Murray, which continues it’s own radical path to this day.

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