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“Humanities” has a shared sense of groove and interactivity

Humanities (PR8180)

The latest album from the esteemed jazz pianist and musicologist David Ake, Humanities swings buoyantly through a dozen tracks, mostly original compositions. The only cover on the album is a convincing translation of the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” into a wistful, earnest ballad in the style of Brian Blade’s Fellowship Band. They showcase a wide range of emotion and timbre, from the calm, spacious “Drinking Song” to the playfully puckish “Rabble Rouser.”
Ake is joined by four stellar New York musicians, all close collaborators of his longtime colleague, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, who shines here alongside drummer Mark Ferber, guitarist Ben Monder, and bassist Drew Gress. The band makes the most out of Ake’s compositions through their shared sense of groove and powerful interactivity—the compositions afford this well, thanks to a melody-driven, improvisation-centered approach that draws from the well of Ornette Coleman’s harmolodic precedent. Each musician shines as a soloist at various points throughout the recording, as well—and Monder is full of surprises throughout, with Ferber’s versatile stylings contributing to a powerful sense of groove throughout the album.

In his role as composer and bandleader, Ake has accomplished the challenging task of creating a deeply engaging document of egalitarian collaboration. The pieces do not go out of their way to showcase his skillful pianism, although this is evident in his solo flights on pieces such as “Hoofer” and “The North.” Ake even tips his hat to this commitment to collective engagement on the last song, “Walter Cronkite,” in which the famed newscaster’s voice is mixed into a spacious improvisation, admonishing us that “Being a democracy, we the people are responsible for the actions of our leaders.”

Alex W. Rodriguez – Jazz Society Oregon

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Culture Jazz from France praises the new one from David Ake

September 17th was a beautiful day in New York. Around 7 pm, David Ake met the team he had gathered at the Acoustic Recording Studio in Brooklyn and less than six hours later, the contents of that disc had been recorded. The day before, the quintet had met a first time in order to quickly “fly over” the scores. And here is this jewel chiseled in a very short time by goldsmiths unparalleled! Humanities is again the magic of jazz that results from “the remarkable joy, the optimism that human beings can feel when they create in a spirit of mutual trust, respect and openness” writes David Ake ” despite all the difficulties, tragedies and political situation of the nation. A few days earlier, he had to evacuate Florida where he resides and take refuge with his family in North Carolina to escape Hurricane Irma. Let’s listen to what is happening here after the storm. A great lesson of jazz given in all modesty but with what fervor by magnificent musicians: David Ake, attentive and inventive pianist, Ralph Alessi, always relevant trumpet-poet, Drew Gress and Mark Ferber in a total rhythmic complicity and, the extra -terrestrial of this exceptional session, Ben Monder, quiet hurricane and stratospheric guitarist who enrubanne this music of electrifying volutes. Superb!

Culture Jazz France

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Grateful for David Ake’s New One “Humanities”



When Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia wrote the Grateful Dead’s most beloved song, “Ripple,” as the B-side to their 1970 “Truckin’” single, they had no way of knowing that 48 years later, it would be the highlight — and only cover — on a terrific 2018 jazz album by pianist

David Ake’s Humanities is solid  throughout, especially considering his amazing quintet is populated by A-List players — guitarist Ben Monder, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Mark Ferber. Recorded in one long afternoon session last year in Brooklyn, the solos, the arrangements, the swoon-worthy melodic constructions, the meandering adventures that wind up satisfying even the most hardboiled heard-it-all listeners like me, add up to the kind of project that just keeps on getting better with each succeeding listen. I just wish I could figure out how to make David Ake’s “Ripple” my phone’s ring tone.

Mike Greenblatt – Aquarian Weekly – Rant & Roll

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David Ake delves deep into “Humanities”

Pianist, composer, and educator David Ake is a native of New Haven, CT, but spent his formative years in Chicago. He did his  undergraduate at the University of Miami before heading to the West Coast to do post-grad work at the California Institute of the Arts and UCLA.

Ake’s fifth album on Posi-Tone is titled “Humanities” and features the powerful musical voices of his fellow CalArts colleague Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Ben Monder (guitars), Drew Gress (bass), and Mark Ferber (drums).  If you have heard any of Ake’s earlier group albums, you’ll know he’s a powerful and thoughtful pianist while his music often has a powerful forward motion.

There are moments on the new album where the music leans towards Americana, not surprisingly on the quintet’s reading of The Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” (the only “cover” tune on the CD) – they don’t mess with the gentle bluesy quality of Jerry Garcia’s sweet melody. Alessi’s muted trumpet brings the sound of Ron Miles to mind and the piece would not be out of place on a Bill Frisell album (but note the alternate chords at various times throughout the piece). The piano introduction to “Drinking Song” has the feel of a Randy Newman ballad but there is a spare quality to the melody. The trumpet and guitar play the melody and counterpoint while the rhythm section tosses and turns beneath them, not disrupting the flow as much as creating dynamic differences.

What stands out throughout the program is how distinctive all five voices are.  On songs such as “The North“, one can hear the power of the guitar, the rich melodic sense of the trumpet, the “heavy” chords from  the piano, the counterpoint and melodies from the bass, and the driving force of the drums. Ferber is truly in the driver’s seat; listen to his strength on “Rabble Rouser“, how Gress helps him push the music forward, and then how the soloists are inspired by the rhythm section.  And, they can swing! “Hoofer” starts out with the drummer’s brush work creating his own sweet soft-shoe.  Ake picks up on that and dances right through his sly Monk-like solo.  The bassist leads the group through the beginning of “Stream” – much of the fun of the piece is how the dynamics change on the fly.  After the opening, the band moves into a harder-edged melody but drops back for the piano solo.  Ake build the tension as the trumpet and guitar play a unison counterpoint to his solo. A similar interaction takes place beneath Alessi’s solo, this time the pianist and guitarist playing chordal patterns as Ferber builds the tension with a fiery drum spotlight.

The program closes with “Walter Cronkite“: that’s the newsman’s voice you hear near the beginning saying “’s the ultimate question that being a democracy we the people are responsible for the actions of our leaders“.  Alessi’s keening, questioning, trumpet moves atop the rumbling piano, droning bass, quiet guitar fill, and active drums, giving the rubato piece the feel of an elegy, at times, a prayer.  There is a short section where the trumpet and piano sounds like a telegraph signaling an urgent question across the great divide before the music fades.

To do justice to the music on “Humanities” is truly to tell you to listen and listen deeply. David Ake composes music that asks questions, that plumbs the depth of the human spirit, and looks for the soul within the songs. And the musicians know how to transmit those questions and searches to an eager audience.  Give some time to this music; it will make you think and, perhaps, even move you to action in these often tense times.

Richard Kamins – Step Tempest

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All About Jazz gives “Message In Motion” 5 stars

brendlerMessage In Motion is a recording that can be gainfully approached from a number of angles. You can choose to play it in a single sitting from start to finish, taking in an array of moods evoked by bassist Peter Brendler’s seven compositions and a band worthy of his exemplary skills as a writer. (The record also includes selections penned by Duke Ellington, Elliott Smith, and Alice Coltrane.)

Equally satisfying is the practice of detaching the compositions from the improvisations that follow, enabling one to focus on the care Brendler takes in crafting melodies, appreciate the shapes and contours of individual songs, as well as his shrewd employment of different configurations of a five-piece group. It’s easy to become fixated on each of his works, and after a while, despite their differences, they loosely cohere into some sort of aggregate. “Splayed” opens in a wistful manner that includes brief silences, and quickly turns harder and somewhat sinister. “Stunts and Twists” is a haunting, quasi-ballad that evolves in a long, restless sweep. Bearing the influence of the early work of Ornette Coleman, the densely swinging “Very Light and Very Sweet” seems to feed on itself. The deliberately paced “Gimmie The Numbers” makes bedfellows of elements ranging from gospel to gutbucket. Fueled by a firestorm of distorted guitar noise and punchy, drum dominated time, “Lucky In Astoria” sounds like a waltz on steroids.

Another rewarding course is concentrating on the work of each of the primary soloists—tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, trumpeter Peter Evans, guitarist Ben Monder, and Brendler—and making note of the ways in which the bassist and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza support and interact with them. As his tone declares a slightly sour disposition, Perry’s “Didn’t Do Nothing” solo sounds as if he’s pushing away some sort of obstacle without using a whole lot of force or emphasis, as if the effort is distasteful or futile to begin with. In general, his improvising is slippery, evasive, and—miraculously—right down the center of the music’s core. Throughout Evans’ wildly ambitious improvisations on “Splayed,” “Stunts and Twists,” and “Didn’t Do Nothing,” each note seems to be gobbled up by the next one, offering the impression of something being torn down and reassembled in a different form, all in one maniacal, continuous motion. Taking his cue from the song’s melody, during “Gimmie The Numbers,” Monder begins in a simple, direct manner, and eventually turns prickly, making darting leaps across the beat. During the incendiary “Lucky In Astoria,” his overwrought guitar and Perry’s tenor extemporize at the same time, as if they’re both trying to force their way out of a confined space by vastly different means.

It’s entirely possible that there’s no end to the discoveries and pleasures engendered by
Message In Motion. The music always encourages yet another listen. Highly recommended.

DAVID A. ORTHMANN  –  All About Jazz

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Classicalite says Peter Brendler’s “Message In Motion” lives up to it’s name

brendlerAnother winner from the left coast’s Posi-Tone: consider it a Message In Motion by Peter Brendler where six of the tracks feature no chords whatsoever as it’s Brendler’s bass augmented by Rich Perry’s tenor sax, the trumpet of Peter Evans and Vinnie Sperazza with the type of kinetic drumming that continually moves the music forward.

Brendler wrote eight of 10 and his compositional style gives everyone ample room to move. His two covers are “Ptah The El Daoud” by pianist Alice Coltrane [1937-2007] who was even more way out half the time than her icon husband John, and a real oddball pick of “Easy Way Out” by singer/songwriter Elliott Smith [1969-2003].

Four tracks have guest guitarist Ben Monder to add a few chords and a few runs of his own. Monder’s a monster. His Amorphae last year featured tracks with legendary drummer Paul Motian [1931-2011] from a scrapped 2010 duet project.

The sound is straight-ahead, exciting and constantly kinetic: it moves, man! Like the title implies, motion is inherent in these grooves. Continuing with the premise of his 2014 sophomore effort, Outside The Line, it expands the territory Brendler first sought out on his debut 2013 duo CD (The Angle Below, on Steeplechase Records) with guitarist John Abercrombie. Originally from Baltimore, Brendler graduated from Berklee in Boston before moving to New York City where he earned his Masters at the Manhattan School of Music.

Produced by Marc Free, engineered by Nick O’Toole, recorded at Acoustic in Brooklyn, mixed’n’mastered at Woodland Studio in Lake Oswego, Oregon, highlights include “Very Light And Very Sweet” (which lives up to its name, and you can hear sax man Perry’s transcribed solo below), opener “Splayed,” “Stunts And Twists” (syncopated and surprising) and, my favorite, the closing “Stop Gap.”

Mike Greenblatt –

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Midwest Record tells us about the well conceived “Message In Motion” by Peter Brendler

brendlerHaving made his bones with his John Abercrombie duet, the bass ace pioneers a new jazz genre, free jazz for white people. Not as madly careening as classic civil rights jazz, Brendler’s vision has it own moves and makes it own rules madly teasing the ears of honkies not all that in love with straight lines. Well conceived wild stuff for those looking for a wild ride.


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Dusted Magazine tells us about the blend of instrumental prowess on “Message In Motion”

brendlerOn his excellent debut outing for Positone, bassist Peter Brendler got arguably upstaged by the intrigue inherent to the frontline pairing of tenorist Rich Perry and trumpeter Peter Evans. With Message in Motion much of the novelty has worn off, replaced by a full embrace of the confidence that comes from two players who share an encyclopedic command of their respective instruments. Vinnie Sperrazza returns on drums and Brendler also taps guitarist Ben Monder to bolster the band to quintet size. Brendler leads with his usual blend of instrumental prowess and careful consideration toward crafting collaborative surroundings that stress his colleagues’ strengths.

Eight originals add to a pair of covers for a solid near-hour of music starting with the hardbop-reminiscent “Splayed”, a medium-tempo head-solos piece that allows Evans to uncork his horn. Perry’s ensuing solo is more conventional by comparison, but stocked with register-ranging stream of phrases. Brendler holds the center with a plumply striding line. The ballad “Angelica” finds him in comparable functional form, plucking out an anchor around which the horns revolve before expanding into a resonant conversation with Sperrazza around a Latin rhythm. Monder debuts on the lushly configured “Stunts and Twists”, glassy amplification giving his tasteful chording added reflective presence.

The lengthiest cut of the date, Alice Coltrane’s “Ptah The El Daoud” gives Sperrazza a shot to shine on the martial motif that underscores the tune and Evans engages in an expressive Doppler growl. Perry’s rubato extemporization cuts to the core of the mood-saturated theme with Brendler once again laying down a bold bass pulse as the tenorist heats up and treads close to the rarefied territory of the composer’s spouse. Evans worries a phrase to the point of near-overkill before exploding it into a torrent of textured sound. Elliott Smith’s “Easy Way Out” places the spotlight sharply on the leader and Sperrazza with Monder joining them mid-piece and further solidifying the melodic focus with a lattice of reverb-dipped single notes and glissandi.

Brendler’s compositions carry the album to conclusion starting with aptly-named “Very Light and Very Sweet”, an up-tempo lark that augments its brisk, effervescent structure with some weighty improvisation from Evans and Perry followed by rollicking exchanges with Sperrazza. “Gimmie the Numbers” brings a Mingus-style groove predicated by its title and propelled by Brendler’s room-filling strolling line. Evans and Perry play the blues in their inimitable idiolects as Monder caulks the corners with luminous chords. “Lucky in Astoria” and “Stop Gap” arguably save the most unexpected Brendler for last with the first adopting rock inflections through Monder’s distortion-laced riffing and second capping the session with sortie through open-ended funk. Converting this eclectic crew to a working band seems a foregone conclusion.

Derek Taylor – Dusted Magazine


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Chicago Reader tells us about Peter Brendler’s mainstream postbop “Message In Motion”

brendlerNew York bassist Peter Brendler has been a rising figure in the city’s jazz mainstream for the past decade or so. He recently released Message in Motion (Posi-Tone), his second album as a leader (not counting a 2013 duo recording with guitarist John Abercrombie, The Angle Below). It’s another knockout, working solidly within postbop orthodoxy while pushing against its strictures, thanks largely to the strong players with whom the bassist surrounds himself— and none contribute more powerfully than trumpeter Peter Evans. In fact, it’s Evans who pretty much transforms the album from a strong postbop session into a recording that’s stunned me—when I listen to it, I alternate between laughing at the trumpeter’s nonchalant audacity and falling speechless at his ability to work inside the tradition, leaving it a sere husk in his wake.

Evans is an improviser of great technical facility and wild imagination, and during his long stint in the wonderfully arch Mostly Other People Do the Killing he showed off his postbop chops with a gleeful irreverence, alternately playing changes with fiery excitement and turning over the apple cart with full-blown experimentation. He left that band a couple of years ago, and for those hungering to hear him in a more conventional jazz setting, Brendler has been providing it.

As he did on his 2014 album Outside the Line, Brendler works with Evans, saxophonist Rich Perry, and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza on the new record; on a handful of tracks the group expands to a quintet with the addition of guitarist Ben Monder. In most cases the leader’s compositions are sturdy vehicles for blowing, as you can hear for yourself on album opener “Splayed,” where a delicate unison melody flips into a driving shuffle groove, allowing both horn men to chew up the scenery, both individually and in thrilling multilinear improvising.
“Angelica” is another brisk number, with an appealingly tart melody inspired by Duke Ellington’s small-group work; Brendler cites guitarist John Abercrombie as an inspiration for the ballad “Stunts and Twists,” which gets a lush atmosphere from Monder’s moody comping. On album closer “Stop Gap” Brendler pays homage to the denatured boogaloo themes popular on Blue Note during the late 50s and early 60s, a genre exercise not terribly far removed from what Evans did in MOPDTK (though Brendler’s harmonies and the horn timbre sound thoroughly contemporary).

Message in Motion includes two covers: the bassist gets the spotlight on the opening of a trio version of Elliott Smith’s “Easy Way Out,” where an extended, crystalline guitar solo temporarily but dramatically changes the complexion of the album toward cool, lyrical introspection. Sperrazza deploys a tough march rhythm to kick off the group’s take on Alice Coltrane’s “Ptah the El Daoud,” followed by a Perry solo that channels Coltrane’s husband John, but it’s Evans who steals the show, crowning Brendler’s walking groove with a dazzling adaptation of his own extended techniques—repeating fast-moving phrases till they turn dizzying, playing lines that run up and down the range of his horn with frightening precision and clarity, scalding his exquisite tone with striated dissonance, bringing a nasality that sounds downright saxophonic to other lines, and closing it out with a hilarious guttural blubber and a high-pitched whinny.

Peter Margasak – Chicago Reader

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Culture Jazz (France) reveals the Power of “Message In Motion”

mindset2Jazz full frame. It is right on target with this strong team of aggressive and inventive musicians able to revive the colors of the modern swing. After Outside The Line (Posi-Tone, 2014), bassist Peter Brendler maintains the same quartet without harmonic instrument to propose a music with clear lines: two soloists and a rhythm section. Classic you might say, of course, but with a few blowers duo Peter Evans, stunning trumpet and Rich Perry on tenor saxophone we enjoy meeting here to recall happy memories of the discographic label Steeplechase and especially with the big- band of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis once. With the valuable and effective support of drummer Vinnie Sperrazza, Peter Brendler blackmails his bass (intro … Easy Way Out) on flexible lines of music that defends a certain idea of brevity and simplicity in both original themes in loans to Duke Ellington and John Coltrane (Angelica), Alice Coltrane (Ptah the El Daoud) or Elliott Smith (Easy Way Out). And then there is the presence in almost alien in this context invited the guitarist Ben Monder that has shaken the quartet scheduling and planning the color harmonies of his always creative guitar playing. Recorded in a day so almost in live conditions in the studio as is usual with Posi-Tone, this disc gives a clear and accurate picture of what may be the jazz today: rooted in tradition but played with the freshness of the discoverers of the first days thanks to the fertile imagination instrumentalists.

Thierry Giard – Culture Jazz France