Recorded in 1992, this live trio setting features saxophonist Oliver Lake in heady company. While Lake had played plenty with Andrew Cyrille by this time, his playing relationship with Workman had barely begun. While it would be reasonable to expect a blowing date within the context of these three men, that's not exactly what transpires. Instead, the trio focuses on modal and free jazz in the context of tempered dialogue, where exchange happens on the level of idiomatic transformation as opposed to harmonic ideas. Lake, while the front-line player here, actually acts as the gatekeeper among melody, harmony, and rhythm, and among the various approaches to subverting or at least stretching them outside the blues or swing context. Workman and Cyrille, who would rather keep the proceedings outside at all times, are thus herded into new melodic directions by Lake, a former dedicated avant-gardist who rediscovered the tradition in his own playing just four or five years before. "I Would Like Too" is a perfect example of this dialogic imagination at work. Lake sets a melodic line well versed in post-bop blues, and Workman responds by wavering around the meter -- slipping just behind it or traveling slightly ahead, forcing Cyrille to double time just to keep time. Lake responds with a series of staccato notes played off-key and in stark contrast to the tune's origin. Workman counters by moving back in time and instead moves to change interval directions into free jazz improv. Cyrille follows and, for two minutes it's a free for all, until Lake strikes with a loud bleat and carries the tune back into the post-bop blues. This track is an excellent model for the tension, resolve, and conflicting emotions that run through this set. And while it's true that there is a struggle going on for the duration of the set, it's one that gives listeners the greatest benefit, given that the resulting music is an open exchange of ideas with no one player dominating the proceedings. Live in Willisau is fine concert that listeners are fortunate enough to have a record of.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek