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John Lake: Seven Angels

Jim Worsley By

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John Lake: Seven Angels
Compelling is the first word that comes to mind in describing John Lake's debut record as a leader. Eight Lake originals, adjoined by three reimagined tunes from the past, comprise Seven Angels. A seasoned studio musician and sideman, Lake knew his time had come. He is joined by five stellar musicians who collectively build a liquid sextet.

A lesser known artist doesn't have the luxury of time. He/she has to grab attention quickly. With that in mind, Lake presents "The Bet," with his formidable rhythm section crafting and sharing a tight yet flexible pocket that grooves to its core. Pianist Steven Feifke, drummer {Jeff Davis}} and bassist Marcos Varela use the rhythm section nucleus to establish their own identities. All the while holding the space for tenor saxophonist Paul Jones, alto saxophonist Michael Thomas and Lake himself to share a singular moment in time with a multitude of individuality. Jones sharply seized the opportunity to push it forward and open up a door, that Lake robustly bursts through.

A cascading piano run opens the celestial voyage of "Nightwatch." The melodious steps by the horn section glide by and are induced by the deeply rooted and poised rhythm section. A stirring tenor sax bite leads full circle back to the piano, now engaged with drum splashes. Lake's vocabulary speaks volumes in this journey and punctuates the conclusion of his mythical composition.

The alto sax is on display in one of only three songs not written by Lake. "Ladybird" artistically connects bass and drum crossovers with the horn section. The superb alto crisps are enhanced by Lake's stylish note selections. That torch is passed on to the delicate softness of the keyboard, that in turn beams a light on tasteful bass lines. The synergy of movement within this sextet is boldly embodied through this vivid soundscape.

High energy flirts daringly within the boundaries, as not to be overwhelmed, in the aptly titled "Whelmed." Lake takes us repeatedly to the edge. The vibe of the horn section is infectious as the rhythm section merges in delightful cadence. Gritty drum enhancements, buoyant bass lines, and a creative piano solo bolster Lake's handsome take. The sextet stretches out for a lively and fun ride.

Lake's "Pearls of the Tartar," is preceded by his short table setting "Intro to Pearls." Pianist Feifke softly creates a mood that smoothly jumps up into the swing of the horns. Lake simmers and cooks along with the tenor steam of Jones. A nifty and textured bass solo by Varela that oozes feelings, is met in kind by Feifke and drummer Davis. With its vibrant swing throughout, "Pearls of the Tartar" is resilient and unwaveringly joyful.

"A Shade of Jade," a composition by saxophonist Joe Henderson, is given a swingin' makeover and a shoeshine by the flying veracity of Jones then polished by Lake's high-wire tightrope trumpet act. Thomas playfully jumps on the swing set, as Davis stands out in a rhythm section that wraps it all in a shiny package. Well-conceived and well arranged, this is a fine homage to Henderson, by someone who clearly grasps his mojo.

In the title track, Lake again enters the soul with a heartfelt piece that is encircled by Fiefke's keys. Thomas floats heavenly among the "Seven Angels" in a superior representation of the sextet on a variety of levels. Not the least of which was outstanding and well-structured musicianship.

Up next, a sax concoction that goes down as easily as it is stirred up, is served up by the rhythm section. A fun piece, "Signal Changes" is elevated by a hopped-up vibe and Lake's kicky note selections. A formidable exploration is shared and exchanged within the sextet. Their clear choice of playing together as an ensemble, as opposed to round robin soloing, separates this recording from the pack.

As much power and swing as was put forward on Seven Angels, finishing up with the Cole Porter's memorable, "Everything I Love," was a poetically confident move. Sure, the obvious might have been to raise the roof with a jumping finale. The classy, and in this case, classic choice was a moment of reflection on our time-honored jazz, brightly embraced within the wingspan of Seven Angels.

Track Listing

The Bet; Nightwatch; Ladybird; Whelmed; Intro To Pearls; Pearls of the Tartar; A Shade of Jade; Seven Angels; Signal Changes; cloud_down; Everything I Love.

Personnel

John Lake: trumpet; Paul Jones: saxophone, tenor; Michael Thomas: saxophone, alto; Steven Feifke: piano; Marcos Varela: bass, acoustic; Jeff Davis: drums.

Album information

Title: Seven Angels | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Outside in Music

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