Born in Marianna, Arkansas in 1942, OLIVER LAKE moved to St. Louis at the age of two. He began drawing at thirteen (and still paints daily, using oil, acrylics, wood, canvas, and mixed media), and soon after he began playing cymbals and bass drum in various drum and bugle corps.
At 17, he began to take a serious interest in jazz. Like many other members of BAG and its Chicago-based sister organization, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), he moved to New York in the mid-'70s, working the fertile ground of the downtown loft scene and quickly establishing himself as one of its most adventurous and multi-faceted artists.
A co-founder of the internationally acclaimed World Saxophone Quartet in 1977, along with Julius Hemphill, Hamiet Bluiett, and David Murray, Oliver continues to work with the WSQ and his own various groups and collaborates with many notable choreographers, poets and a veritable Who's Who of the progressive jazz scene of the late 20th century / early 21st, performing all over the U.S. as well as Europe, Japan, the Middle East, Africa and Australia.
Always a strong proponent of artist self-empowerment and independence, Oliver Lake founded Passin' Thru, Inc. in 1988, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to fostering, promoting and advancing the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of jazz, new music, and other related disciplines.
Passin' Thru has commissioned new works, sponsored performances by emerging artists, documented works by prominent artists, and established on-going educational activities. The organization also operates Passin' Thru Records, which has issued Oliver's albums, ranging from solo to big band, as well as recordings by the late, legendary multi-reed master Makanda Ken McIntyre, piano great John Hicks, and the first recording by Lake's mentor, St. Louis tenor sax giant Freddie Washington. Oliver Lake currently performs, composes, and tours with his Organ Quartet, Steel Quartet, Big Band, the WSQ, and Trio 3, a superb collaboration of Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, and Andrew Cyrille.