David Ake: Bridges (2013)
Akewho just settled into the position of chair of the Department of Music at Case Western Reserve University at the time of this writingknows a thing or two about music and history. His educational background in musicology, which culminated in the attainment of a Ph.D. from U.C.L.A in 1998, and his booksJazz Cultures (University of California Press, 2002) and Jazz Matters (University of California Press, 2010)bear that out, but he doesn't let his intellect bog down his recorded work. He balances inside-outside sounds on Bridges, no doubt looking to challengebut not alienatethose on the giving and receiving end(s) of his music.
Ake plays a game of bait-and-switch throughout the album. He starts off with two songs that paint him as a pattern-istic composer ("Bridges" and "Sonomads") of sorts, but he erases that notion with a bright solo piano episode ("Waterfront"). Then, just when it seems things might be moving toward a central avenue of expression, Ake leans left again with "Story Table." A Thelonious Monk-cum-Ornette Coleman-ish number follows ("We Do?"), giving the horns a chance to tangle, but the raucous energy of that number doesn't carry over to "Boats (Exit)." The horns provide ghostly coloring beneath Ake's gently floating piano work on this slow-to-unfold number; the long-road development in this piece may be the greatest connection between Ake's music and that of Bryars. As the album continues, intentionally woozy and piquant music makes an appearance ("Year In Review") and uncertainty leads to structure ("Open/Balance"); that balance between the known and unknown actually tends to carry the day here, regardless of the structural specificity of each vehicle.
Ake's stellar sextet, which includes long time friends and Cal Arts classmates like tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, trumpeter Ralph Alessi and bassist Scott Colley, deserves almost as much credit for the success of this album as the man in charge. All of these musicians balance brash blowing with more nuanced forms of expression as they assist David Ake in his bridge-building exploits.
Track Listing: Bridges; Sonomads; Waterfront; Story Table; We Do?; Boats (Exit); Year In Review; Open/Balance; Dodge; Grand Colonial; Light Bright.
Personnel: David Ake: piano; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Scott Colley: bass; Ravi Coltrane: tenor saxophone; Peter Epstein: alto saxophone; Mark Ferber: drums.
Record Label: Posi-Tone Records