Saxophonist/composer Oliver Lake - along with Marty Erhlich, the best-known player out of the 70s B.A.G. scene - is perhaps best known as one-fourth of the World Saxophone Quartet, but as a leader he has put together several thoughtful, cutting-edge sessions. At times, he's delved into forays into a reggae/jazz fusion with his band Jump Up. Lake is an heir to the throne of the late Eric Dolphy - a probing though never academic tone, vocally- and blues-tinged as well as soulfully frenetic. In times past, Lake has recorded Dolphy tunes as well as tributes. Here, Lake debuts his Steel Quartet, which consists of alto (and occasional soprano) sax, electric bass, drums and Lyndon Achee on steel drums. I can just here the "Purists" starting to whine: "Electric bass?!? Steel drums?!?"
If yez are thinking that Lake's stumbling down the path of flaccid Quiet Storm/fusion dreck, think again. Steel drums are most always associated with Caribbean music, but Lake clearly sidesteps that connection. While the sound of the steel drums may evoke a tropical paradise, Achee's playing probably won't - he matches Lake's good-natured but pointedly quirky approach, sounding at times as if he's playing a giant metal harp. The program consists of Lake originals: free-bop with tight, swirling and driving electric bass and drums, except for a blues-rich version of Mingus' Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and a funk-charged take on John Coltrane's "Lonnie's Lament." Oh, yes, a real tasty tune by one of West Coast Jazz's greatest secrets, Sonny Simmons. KINDA' UP is simultaneously adventurous AND fun jazz.