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David Ake: Humanities

Dan Bilawsky By

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Pianist David Ake is a tough man to pin down. With Bridges (Posi-Tone, 2013) he took on the form of label outlier and pathfinder, breaking away from Posi-Tone's radio-friendly album format with a series of outward bound excursions; on Lake Effect (Posi-Tone, 2015) he offered a cooler alternative that proved ruminative in many of its pursuits; and through Humanities he delivers a penetrating program that roams wide without running or breaking free. He keeps us guessing, for sure, and that's a beautiful thing.

Ake was only able to get these musicians together a single time to run through these tunes on the day before the recording session, and his road to said gathering wasn't so certain because of his hasty departure from his Miami home ahead of Hurricane Irma's arrival. But the music doesn't betray those facts. These five men go all in here, delivering some of the smartest, hippest, and most urgent music Ake's recorded. That's made clear with a "Hoofer" that give dancers everywhere an impish name while giving drummer Mark Ferber a chance to play it loose, a weighty and wild "Groundwork" enlivened by Ben Monder's live wire lines, an unexpected encounter with the Grateful Dead via a Bill Frisell-worthy "Ripple," and a charged ride around a morphing closed loop with "You May Have Already Won." Each track speaks to and for its own truths, but all prove beautifully bracing in their unfolding.

There are episodes of relative calm in this mix—the wide-eyed title track, a pensive "Drinking Song" that reaches the nadir of the empty glass, the aforementioned trip to refracted hippiedom, and a searching and thoughtful "Resource Center," to cite a few—but it's in the action of the moment and/or at the zenith of the storm that this band truly shines. That's plainly obvious when Monder and trumpeter Ralph Alessi feed off each other's phrases on "Stream," and it's clear as day when the entire outfit plays with searing heat and post-modern fusion tactics on the aptly named "Rabble Rouser." But regardless of the tension level in the music, everybody in this band plays for keeps. In bringing Ferber, Monder, trumpeter Ralph Alessi and bassist Drew Gress together, Ake formed the perfect collection of individuals to breathe life into these compositions.

Track Listing: Humanities; Hoofer; Groundwork; Ripple; You May Have Already Won; Drinking Song; The North; Stream; Resource Center; Narration; Rabble Rouser; Walter Cronkite.

Personnel: David Ake: piano; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Ben Monder: guitar; Drew Gress: bass; Mark Ferber: drums.

Title: Humanities | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records

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