Dec 16 2013
There is something deceptively straight-ahead about Bridges, the new release by pianist David Ake. A track like “We Do?” with its punctuated cadence and winding saxophone lines, and “Year In Review,” with its fiery hard bop warmth, and a bass line that walks the ensemble to the finish line… they both scream the characteristics of a middle of the road mix of classic and modern forms of bop. “Dodge” is an up-tempo burner that plays it straight and “Grand Colonial” intimates a ballad, even when it builds up into something more lively.
But this only part of the story, and not even the most intriguing part, at that.
Bridges is released on Posi-Tone Records, a label who can be relied upon to present tasteful straight-ahead jazz. Sometimes that bop is more akin to the swing of fifties and the groove of the sixties, and other times it’s constituted of the hard angles and looser melodies of the modern post-bop era. But, typically, with Posi-Tone, you’re gonna get some sort of bop.
Well, most of the time. Every now and then they throw a wildcard into the deck. The new release by David Ake is one such recording.
Your album personnel: David Ake (piano), Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Peter Epstein (alto sax), Ravi Coltrane (tenor sax), Scott Colley (bass), and Mark Ferber (drums).
The album opens with the moody title-track “Bridges.” A pulsing tempo, anchored by Ake’s piano and Epstein’s alto sax. The bass of Scott Colley gurgles happily along, charting a course that shapes an unformed melody. When the ensemble digs into a simple, yet rich harmonic offering, it becomes a song in flight. And this leads right into “Sonomads,” an expanded version of the opening track, ratcheting up the harmony and providing a melody with greater definition. Colley continues where he left off on the previous track, growing increasingly talkative when Alessi joins the conversation on trumpet. Drummer Ferber peppers the song with rapid rhythmic punches… the kind of blows that snap the head back as it bobs along to the music.
The glittering piano solo of “Waterfront” leads into “Story Table,” a song with nice solos by Alessi and Epstein, issued forth over the tune’s staggered gait. Of those tracks that break with straight-ahead jazz conventions, this one stays closest to the nest.
“Boats (exit)” is a moody piece, with trumpet calling out over the swirling mist of harmony. It’s another example of the temporary departure from conventional bop expressionism. “Open/Balance” is no less moody, but freer in nature, harmonies coalescing then dispersing just as quickly. Coltrane’s tenor sax is just one stream in that harmonic conversion, but its presence is most felt, both when the song operates at just a murmur, and then when it lifts up and shouts.
The album ends with “Light Bright,” a song of assemblages that prefer to remain nearby one another without ever locking into place. It gives the sense of many things happening at once without ever traveling very far away.
Which, actually, is emblematic of this excellent recording… an album of many dimensions of subtle differentiations that keeps within shouting distance of Jazz center. It’s the kind of album likely to appeal to both old- and new-school fans alike.
Released on Posi-Tone Records.
Jazz from the Reno, Nevada scene.