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David Ake “Lake Effect” review in JazzTimes Magazine…



Pianist David Ake’s Bridges was one of the best jazz outings of 2013, featuring a gentle kaleidoscope of taut yet off-kilter compositions for a sextet consisting of his fellow California Institute of the Arts alumni and associates, including Ravi Coltrane, Ralph Alessi and Scott Colley. Lake Effect is equally satisfying but in a much different, more emotionally penetrating fashion. Since Bridges, Ake has moved back to his Midwestern roots, becoming the chair of the department of music at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. And last summer, he was jolted by the death of Charlie Haden, his musical mentor and the founder of the jazz program at CalArts. Both events affect the shape and purpose of the music here.

An extended quote by Haden about immersion in the music is set over a photograph of a winter lake—it’s the only liner note beyond the recording details. The first composition, the stark and beautifully somber “Lone Pine,” is Ake’s solo piano tribute to Haden. For the other nine tracks, the ensemble is pared down to a quartet, with the aforementioned three members absent and bassist Sam Minaie replacing Colley alongside holdovers Mark Ferber on drums and Peter Epstein on saxophones. They provide the right intimacy for the tone poem “Silver Thaw,” with Ake’s dappled notes given further nuance by soft chimes to mimic the dripping water. “Hills” is another evocative soundscape, distant in its wistfulness and nonchalance. Even the more ingenious, piquant compositions, similar to the writing on Bridges, such as “Tricycle” and “Two Stones,” have an engaging sentimentality. From the Lake Michigan of his Chicago boyhood to the Lake Tahoe of his previous teaching position in Reno, Nev., to the Lake Erie in his current neighborhood, Ake knows the varieties of terrain and seasonal patterns along the waterfront.


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Dan Bilawsky reviews David Ake “Lake Effect”…



Pianist David Ake strikes a pensive pose on the back cover ofLake 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.

Track Listing: Lone Pine (For Charlie Haden); The Cubs; Tricycle; Two Stones; Hills; Bye-Ya; Silver Thaw; Palhaco; Returning; Lake Effect.

Personnel: David Ake: piano; Peter Epstein: soprano saxophone, alto saxophone; Sam Minaie: bass; Mark Ferber: drums.