By Carlo Wolff | Published June 2018
David Ake brackets his new album with the thoughtful, turbulent title track and a wistful homage to the great newsman Walter Cronkite. What binds them together and courses through all 12 tunes is Ake’s daring, yet disciplined, sensibility. Each tune has its own personality. And all but one are Ake originals.
The album spans the slippery “Hoofer,” a rough, modern ride on “Groundwork” and a version of “Ripple” that turns that Grateful Dead classic into a campfire song.
Ake surrounds himself with all-stars: trumpeter Ralph Alessi, guitarist Ben Monder, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Mark Ferber. The trumpeter sparkles on “Humanities,” goes muted to make “Ripple” memorably dusky and, on “Drinking Song,” joins Ake in an appropriately boozy weave.
Peaceful tunes like “Drinking Song” and the lovely, spacious “Stream” provide relief from edgy cuts like “Groundwork”—a showcase for Monder’s sprawling guitar—and “The North.” The latter track is downright smeary: cymbal splashes, unison trumpet-guitar lines, a rare Ake solo, shredding Monder.
If this album sounds passive-aggressive in its programming, it’s overtly so on “You May Have Already Won.” Driven by Ferber and leavened by Monder at his most subversive, the tune speaks to the anger and ambivalence in all of us. Ake clearly leans toward the aggressive.
At the same time, the bandleader’s playing simply can be beautiful. “Stream” has a courtly feel, framed by Ake’s minimalist excursions and Gress’ resonant forays. Alessi solos expressively and Ake block-chords the tune home, ending on a bluesy note.
Humanities: Humanities; Hoofer; Groundwork; Ripple; You May Have Already Won; Drinking Song; The North; Stream; Resource Center; Narration; Rabble Rouser; Walter Cronkite. (60:37)
Personnel: David Ake, piano; Ralph Alessi, trumpet; Ben Monder, guitar; Drew Gress, bass; Mark Ferber, drums.