Born in Marianna, Arkansas in 1942, Oliver moved to St. Louis at the age of two. He began drawing at the age of thirteen (and paints daily, using oil, acrylics, wood, canvas, and mixed media), and soon after 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), Lake 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 with Hemphill, Hamiet Bluiett and David Murray in 1977 (and recently celebrating its 26th anniversary with an album of Jimi Hendrix pieces for Justin Time Records), Oliver continued to work with the WSQ and his own various groups - including the groundbreaking roots/reggae ensemble Jump Up - and collaborating with many notable choreographers, poets and a veritable Who's Who of the progressive jazz scene of the late 20th century, performing all over the U.S. as well as in Europe, Japan, the Middle East, Africa and Australia.
While he has continued to tour regularly with his own groups, collaborations and guest appearances - in the last three months of 2003, he performed in Europe, Japan and various U.S