"Ain't no need for you all to stand around," Oliver Lake advised Saturday's crowd at the 9:30 club. "You can dance.We came to party." Ten years ago, such advice would have been unthinkable coming from an avant-garde jazz saxophonist like Lake. Now, however, New York's jazz vanguard is playing to a funky dance beat. Lake's message Saturday was: You can have your freedom and boogie, too.
Lake's quintet, Jump Up, follows the bands led by Rashied Ali, or Nett Coleman and James "Blood" Ulmer, in introducing Washington to the jazz-funk-punk fusion. Jump Up emphasized the funk element much moore than the other three groups. At times, Jump Up sounded like the James Brown Band, pushing an overwhelming rhythm at the expense of everything else. Lake blew hot and hard on the tenor sax as if he were trying to find a common ground between the sax sounds of Maceo Parker and John Coltrane.
Rashied Ali's bassist son, Amin Ali, has appeared this year with his father, Ulmer and Jump Up. On Saturday Amin Ali's bubbling Memphis soul and Jamaican reggae bass line combined with Pheeroam Ak Laff's staggering drum roll to give the band its big throb. The only weak point was Lake's whining, postured, nasal vocals. To downplay their jazz status, Lake and Amin performed under noms de musique Lord Kiscadi and Radu.
The opening set featured Premiere International, an excellent reggae band based in Washington. The three Jamaican natives, one Guyanan native and two Americans produced an irresistible reggae back-beat laced with lyrical rock 'n' roll guitar by James Wood. Wood's sparkling fills prevented the monotony that often creeps into reggae and made Don Bonner's soul-tinged vocals all the more appealing.