By Bobby Reed | Published April 2018
Although many fans think of straightahead jazz and swing-oriented tunes when they see the Posi-Tone logo, the excellent new album by pianist David Ake demonstrates that the label also gives improvisational artists the freedom to travel wherever the muse carries them.
Ake’s Humanities documents 12 adventurous, improv-fueled journeys taken by a stellar band that includes Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Ben Monder (electric guitar), Drew Gress (acoustic bass) and Mark Ferber (drums). An educator and musicologist at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, Ake composed all the music on the album, with the exception of an intriguing arrangement of the Grateful Dead tune “Ripple.” Ake allows his collaborators to take flight; at various points on a track like “Hoofer,” he, Alessi and Ferber might craft individual lines that intertwine, yet occasionally contrast with one another to create a satisfying tension—but the track still feels cohesive. Monder shows that he can add subtle coloration to a track, or he can explode like a thunderstorm, as he does with the squall on “Groundwork.”
Throughout the disc, Alessi displays the wide variety in his sonic palette, delivering lines that are fiery, elegant and unpredictable. The band members on this project clearly enjoyed their individual freedom, but as a listener, one can always sense the sturdy architecture within the composition.