David Ake has a Ph.D. in musicology from UCLA, but there is nothing academic about the seductive solo-piano music of In Between. Ake’s compositions render their subject matter with emotional authenticity and imaginative clarity. “Boats” is believably about specific individual floating entities. “Dalton Trumbo” is a piquant, poignant tribute, with sad trapped chords but long, lyrical right-hand runs that break free. “Jimmy Rowles” could be a slow lament except that its luminous melodicism is clearly a celebration of a mind and spirit capable of conceiving “The Peacocks.” Ake shapes his improvisations into wholes that are generously elaborated yet contain only relevant details. The achingly slow trance called “Blues” and “Two Colors,” with its cryptic intervals and silences, are two more fully realized examples.
Ake establishes a strong identity and aesthetic with his own pieces, and when he moves to standards, it is seamless. “Beautiful Friendship,” “Embraceable You” and even “Jitterbug Waltz” are extensions of the same creative process. They happen to encounter some Gershwin or Waller along their way, but they are still rich with fresh discoveries.
In Between was recorded at Imirage Sound Lab in Sparks, Nevada, and has more vivid, cleaner sound than many piano recordings made at more famous studios in much bigger towns.