Thursday, September 12, 2013

Michael Dease: Coming Home

D Clef Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Coming Home

I’ve been a jazz fan all of my life, and I’m turned on by most of its sub-genres and the potpourri of instruments involved. That said, I’ve always been partial to the slide trombone. That love began when I first heard the Woody Herman Herd, with Bill Harris starring in the trombone section; his brilliant, driving style was a key part of those bands, and he led the way for artists such as J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding, Bob Brookmeyer, John Fedchock, Curtis Fuller, Wycliffe Gordon and a host of others. 

The newest to join that august group, Michael Dease, is the star of this album. This relatively young (early 30s) musician is a master of the instrument. His tone is superb, his solo passages are tremendously innovative, and he swings like crazy. Combine that with his prowess as a composer and arranger, and we have the next big jazz artist.

The Georgia native began his musical career playing sax, but he switched to trombone before graduating from high school. He received both bachelor and master of music degrees from Juilliard and, while there, earned numerous awards. His first breakthrough was with Illinois Jacquet’s big band in 2002, and Dease currently performs with numerous other groups headed by Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton, Jimmy Heath and Charles Tolliver. Dease also is a member of Dizzy Gillespie’s All Stars, and he plays with many smaller groups, including those under his own name. This release features one of his quintets.

The membership includes bassist Christian McBride, pianist Renee Rosnes, drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., alto saxophonist Steve Wilson and, of course, Dease on trombone. In addition, Eric Alexander (tenor), Tony Lustig (tenor and baritone) and Andrew Swift (percussion) guest on several  of this album’s 11 tracks. Five are Dease originals; one is written by Rosnes, and another by McBride. The rest are jazz standards from Oscar Peterson, Freddie Hubbard and Duke Ellington, along with and Jules Stein’s great “Just in Time.” There’s something from — and for — everyone.

That said, my favorites include takes on “Just in Time” and Peterson’s “Blues Etude.” The latter is a tricky melodic line involving trombone, piano and bass in unison, and trading solo lines that groove wonderfully; the former is done at a blistering tempo that demonstrates Dease’s facility with the slide at an almost unbelievable speed, along with McBride’s second-to-none bass pyrotechnics. 

You absolutely shouldn’t miss this album.

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