Michael Dease – All These Hands – PosiTone

An historical jazz journey from Michael Dease…

Michael Dease – All These Hands – PosiTone PR8160, 65:53 (1/6/17) ****: 

(Michael Dease – trombone; Renee Rosnes – piano; Steve Wilson – flute, alto sax, soprano sax; Etienne Charles – trumpet & flugelhorn; Randy Napoleon – guitar; Gerald Cannon – bass; Rodney Whitaker – bass; Lewis Nash – drums; With special guests: Jason Hainsworth – tenor sax (#7); Diego Rivera – tenor sax (#7); Rufus Reid – bass (#11); Dan Pratt – tenor sax (#11)

Michael Dease has helped revitalized the trombone as a lead instrument on recorded jazz ensembles. His fluid delivery and burnished tone brings to mind J. J. Johnson, and Dease has had a rapid rise on the jazz scene. His fourth session for PosiTone Records, set to be released early next month explores the major jazz destinations in which jazz took root. It’s a journey that began in the deep south and migrated to northern urban centers following the search for upward mobility and social freedom.

Recorded on mostly quintet and trio formats, Michael composed all the compositions and they celebrate the development of the jazz form with its strong influence from the blues, both urban and rural. Some of its first roots came from New Orleans on the opening track, “Creole Country.” Steve Wilson’s flute lead sets the stage, along with Etienne Charles’ warm flugelhorn, the catchy melody done with ensemble blend begins our journey. The early influence of guitar blues along with gut bucket trombone providing “commentary” on “Delta City Crossroads” has Randy Napoleon on guitar and Michael’s trombone sharing the highs and lows of life in the Mississippi delta.

The passage from slavery to emancipation sets the stage for “Good and Terrible” and the quintet led by Renee Rosnes’ standout piano is fully in sync. Once again trumpeter Etienne Charles shines with emotive passion. Guitar, bass, and trombone bring back the dance music of the traveling bands that hit the road on regional tours honing their skills from the 1920s through ‘40s on the track, “Territory Blues.”

“Benny’s Bounce” written to honor Benny Golson’s “Along Came Betty,” is a tribute to Philadelphia, home to the Heath family and John Coltrane’s teenage musical development. Dease is both elegant and swinging on this tune and the quintet channels Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Gerald Cannon’s bass is particularly well recorded.  Another jazz mecca, Detroit, is celebrated on “Black Bottom Banter.” An eight bar blues, it’s just bassist Rodney Whitaker and Dease. Michael gives a lesson on the various mutes used with jazz trombone. Rodney’s slide technique on the bass is enlightening.

No American jazz journey would be complete without a visit to the Windy City. Chicago was a major stopping point for southern musicians moving north. On “Downtown Chi Town” Dease expands to a septet adding two tenors. “Gullah Ring Shout” takes the listener to the “low country” region of South Carolina, where the use of stomping, clapping, and moving in circles helped keep their cultural identity intact. African and Caribbean influences abound and the trombone’s clarion calls were used much like a biblical shofar.

Much travel heading north was done by train. On “Chocolate City” Dease shares the rail lines through snare drums and tones eliciting door chimes. The wait for good southern eating is tackled by “Memphis BBQ & Fish Fry.” Like a street corner jam to cool the heels of an impatient crowd, the trio of Steve Wilson, Renee Rosnes and Dease bring this scene to fruition. The musical stew of “Brooklyn” has master bassist Rufus Reid on a dynamic solo exploring the diverse ethnic communities of this borough. On the closing track, “Up South Reverie” Rodney Whitaker has a tour de force bass solo with intriguing layering effects.

A lot of ground is covered on this CD. It shows the depth of the talents of Michael Dease to take on a project of this magnitude. Jump on board and be prepared to be moved…

TrackList: Creole Country, Delta City Crossroads, Good and Terrible, Territory Blues, Benny’s Bounce, Black Bottom Banter, Downtown Chi-Town, Gullah Ring Shout, Chocolate City, Memphis BBQ & Fish Fry, Brooklyn, Up South Reverie

—Jeff Krow

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