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Michael Dease – Relentless – Posi-Tone

Michael Dease – Relentless – Posi-Tone PR8127, 64:12 [7/8/14] ****½:

(Michael Dease – trombone and musical director; Seneca Black, Greg Gisbert, Alphonso Horne, Etienne Charles, Alex Norris, Benny Benack III, Anthony Stanco – trumpets; Tom “Bones” Malone, Jerrick Matthews, Coleman Hughes, Jeff Nelson(bass), Ron Wilkins (bass) – trombones; Todd Bashore (+ flute), Tim Green (+ flute), Diego Rivera, Sharel Cassity, Tony Lustig – saxophones; Miki Hayama – piano; Linda Oh – acoustic and electric bass; Ulysses Owens, Jr. – drums
Special guests: Adam Rongo (tenor on “Roppongi”), Peter Nelson – (trombone on “Roppongi” and “Autumn Leaves”), Andrew Swift – (guitar on “Roppongi”), and Wycliffe Gordon (trombone on “Autumn Leaves” and vocals & slide trumpet on “Two Bass Hit“)

I’d have to say that Posi-Tone is two for two on current releases by Joe Magnarelli and Michael Dease. Both are great acquisitions to the Posi-Tone roster, and I’m hoping that they stay put for awhile. I can’t give enough plaudits to Dease’s new (and first) big band session as a leader. Dease has flown to the top of first-call trombone session men, as well as having five CDs already as a leader. He was part of the inaugural jazz graduating class at the Juilliard School. Last May his Coming Home CD on D Clef Records earned 4 stars here.

His latest effort, just being released, is something really special. The energy and arrangements on big band jazz issues is often inspiring, but many times you can only imagine what they sound like in person in an auditorium with good acoustics. Relentless has upped the ante considerably as its soundstage is wide, warm, and as crisp as a fresh ripe apple just off the tree. Kudos go out to the recording team of Marc Free, John Davis, Andrew Swift, and Nick O’Toole. Whether it be the range and power of Dease’s trombone, or the walking bass of Linda Oh, the sound is rich, crystal clear and a pleasure to hear on a quality sound system, or a trip to heaven with a good pair of headphones.

Song selection is top notch. Whether it be the tasty Duke Pearson track, “Is That So,” the classics “Two Bass Hit” and “Autumn Leaves” or the four originals from the pen of Dease, the all-star band handles them all with aplomb. Dease wrote all the arrangements.

These days when we are losing the last of our golden age masters, the future of jazz is in good hands with artists like Michael Dease, who have soaked up jazz tradition, and are ready to take over the mantle from their teachers.

A strong shout out of praise should go out to soloists, pianist Miki Hayama (who is featured on four tracks), saxophonists Todd Bashore, and Tim Green, and trumpeter Greg Gisbert. Let’s not ignore the fact, though, that  every member is an integral cog of this jumbo big band and all seem to get solo time. Special treats are the scatting of Dease, Benny Benack, and the inimitable Wycliffe Gordon (an early mentor of Dease) on “Two Bass Hit.” Dease even takes a turn on vocals on the closer “Autumn Leaves.”

Band members are primarily New York City residents, and although there is little chance in today’s market that they’d take the show on the road, at least Posi-Tone eases our longing with such a well-recorded gem. I’m hoping that they’ll be just as “relentless” in getting a second Dease big band session out within the next year. Fingers (and toes) crossed….

TrackList: Is That So, Force, Relentless, I’m Glad There is You, The Takeover, Little Lucas, Roppongi, Two Bass Hit, Webster Grooves, Autumn Leaves

—Jeff Krow

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