David Ake: Lake Effect
Pianist David Ake strikes a pensive pose on the back cover of Lake Effect, foreshadowing a good amount of the music that follows. With his previous album, Ake reveled in the opportunity to keep listener's guessing from song to song and moment to moment. It was a musical gambit that paid off handsomely, making Bridges (Posi-Tone, 2013) one of the stand-out releases of 2013. Here, Ake takes a step forward by taking a step back. Gone is the striking uncertainty projected through Bridges. Through much of this album, Ake simplifies his surroundings, painting musical reveries with gentle hands and highlighting the simpatico sensibilities of his band mates when the temperature rises.
Ake perfectly connects this music to the title of the record, mixing cool and glacial forms with hotter surfaces. The mellow(er) tracks hew toward a wistful and mystical aesthetic. "Lone Pine (For Charlie Haden)," the brief and placid album opener, is the first number to fall into that category. Further down the line there's "Tricycle," a zen-jazz episode that builds into something bigger before returning to a meditative state; "Hills," which finds saxophonist Peter Epstein and Ake floating atop a sea of serenity; "Silver Thaw," presenting this quartet in a state of repose that involves metallic rustling, two slowly see-sawing chords, and simple utterances; and Egberto Gismonti's "Palhaco," which pairs Epstein and Ake in a gorgeously heartbreaking setting.
The remaining tracks, interspersed between the spacious and introspective offerings, provide injections of energy. "The Cubs" is a choppy and gleeful piece; "Two Stones" is hip in an understated way; "Returning" is spry, whether swinging or stammering; and the rhythmically reconstituted take on Monk's "Bye-Ya" is pure fun. And then there's "Lake Effect," a piece that runs the mellow-to-energetic gamut. Bassist Sam Minaie sets the scene there, gently moving over Ake's piano. Then, it's Epstein's saxophone, Ake's firm chordal support, and Mark Ferber's Brian Blade-ish drum work that help the song take flight.
On every piece here, Ake proves to be a gifted communicator, performer, and composer. His simplest compositions are soothing, heart-on-sleeve expressions and his feistier feats are imaginative and accessible gems that get the heart racing.