Whether composing commissioned works for Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra and the Brooklyn Philharmonic; creating chamber pieces for Arditti and Flux String Quartets, Amherst Sax Quartet and San Francisco Contemporary Players; arranging for Bjork, Lou Reed and A Tribe Called Quest; collaborating with poets Amiri Baraka and Ntozake Shange; choreographers Ron Brown and Marlies Yearby; participating as featured artist at City of Asylum’s Jazz/Poetry Concert; performing with Anna Devere Smith and Patricia Williams; publishing books of his poetry and exhibiting his artwork; sharing the stage with Mos Def and Me’shell Ndegeocello; or leading his own Organ Quartet, Big Band and cooperative ensembles the World Saxophone Quartet and Trio 3; Oliver views it all as parts of the same whole.
Lake attributes much of his diverse array of musical styles and disciplines to his experience with the Black Artists Group (BAG), the legendary multi-disciplined and innovative St. Louis collective he co-founded with poets Ajule Rutlin, and musicians Julius Hemphill and Floyd La Flore over 35 years ago. As a co-founder of the internationally acclaimed World Saxophone Quartet with Hemphill, Hamiet Bluiett and David Murray, Oliver continues to work with a variety of groups, and collaborates with several notable choreographers, poets and a veritable Who’s Who of the progressive jazz scene, performing all over the U.S., Europe, Japan, the Middle East, Africa and Australia.
A recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, Oliver Lake is also one of the most frequently commissioned composers in the history of the eminently respected organization Meet the Composer. Other commissions have been received from the Library of Congress, the Rockefeller Foundation ASCAP, the International Association for Jazz Education, Composers Forum, the McKim Foundation, the Mary Flagler Cary Trust and the Lila Wallace Arts Partners Program. Additionally, artist groups who have commissioned works from Lake are the Wheeling Symphony, New York New Music Ensemble, and Pulse Percussion Ensemble of New York. Oliver is often specially cited for his numerous endeavors with female artists and performers, to the extent of being called “The Feminist Composer” in an arts course taught at Wesleyan University. Oliver received the Jazz Impact award from the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium in April of 2006 and the 2006 Mellon Jazz Living Legacy Award at the Kennedy Center.
In addition to his musical endeavors, Oliver is also an accomplished poet, painter and performance artist. He has exhibited and sold his artwork internationally, toured the country with his one-man performance piece, Matador of 1st and 1st and has published two books of poetry, entitled “If I Knew This” and “Life Dance,” respectively. He recently performed as a musician/painter/poet at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival in California and returned as the feature artist for City of Asylum Pittsburgh’s annual Jazz & Poetry Concert series. Lake’s long-standing relationship with City of Asylum includes multiple residencies and his designing of their “Jazz House,” one of several residences established by the organization for “endangered” artists whom have been living in exile from their native land. Oliver designed the intricately painted exterior and provided works of art for the interior, including a programed saxophone doorbell, which includes samples of his music.
“Yes” – Mixed Media On Paper
Lake’s involvement with City of Asylum, as well as his taking place in numerous exhibitions and poetry readings is a testament to the breadth of his artistic palette. While he has long been established and well-respected for his musical work, Lake’s multi-disciplinary inclinations make him a truly unique fixture.
In 2014, Oliver received the prestigious Doris Duke Artist Award, a multi-year grant awarded to only 19 American artists in the fields of jazz, theater and dance. Oliver is the author of the book, If I Knew This & More, Poems & Images. As such, the coming years promise to be exciting and filled with bold new artistic endeavors.
“If I Knew This & More”
This is the 2nd printing of this book of poems and images, the first edition was released in 2011 and is called If I Knew This. This 2nd edition has additional poems and images and is entitled If I Knew This & More. Special thanks to Diane Samuels, Henry Reese, and City Of Asylum. Produced 2022 by City Of Asylum.


A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Editor-in-Chief Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject. His writing appears on Latin Jazz Network; Chamber Music America magazine and numerous other publications.


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