Michael Dease – Coming Home – D Clef Records DCR157, 69:06 ****:
(Michael Dease, trombone; Steve Wilson, alto sax; Renee Rosnes, piano; Christian McBride, bass; Ulysses Owens, Jr., drums; Special guests: Eric Alexander, tenor sax (track 11); Tony Lustig, tenor sax (track 4) and baritone sax (track 5); Andrew Swift, percussion (track 10))
Michael Dease’s rise in the jazz trombone ranks has been quick. After completing his undergraduate and graduate studies in the first class of the reformed jazz program at Juilliard, Michael’s professional career has taken off like a rocket. He played in big bands of Charles Tolliver, Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Pop recordings as a sideman with Paul Simon and Alicia Keys expanded his reputation so as to become a leading candidate for first call trombonist.
Recording as a leader since 2007, Dease’s fourth CD is for D Clef Records, and his backing band is first rate with Steve Wilson, Renee Rosnes, and Christian McBride (who also contributed rapturous liner notes). Song selection is a tasty mix of five original tracks, as well as compositions from Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Freddie Hubbard and a standard (“Just in Time”) from Julie Styne.
The mixing and mastering of Coming Home is first rate. Recorded on a single date in August 2012, at Alley Cat Studios, it is immediately evident that these cats came to play. Dease’s trombone tone is warm, burnished, and authoritative. “Solid Gold” has Dease and Wilson trading step-up choruses backed by rock steady time by Christian McBride and hard-charging drumming by Ulysses Owens, Jr. Renee Rosnes’ piano lines are crisp and deeply melodic. No filler from this group… It has the feel of a well-oiled machine.
“Motherland” is a tender paean to mother Africa, where jazz roots originate. McBride’s bass solo shines brightly while the versatile Steve Wilson bluesy alto soars. OP’s “Blues Etude” has Dease’s rapid fire delivery covering the trombone’s full range. “Good and Terrible,” written by Dease for drummer Owens’ talents blows off the doors, with the added bottom end provided by the bari sax of Tony Lustig. Band mates Rosnes and McBride contribute “Lifewish” and “The Shade of the Cedar Tree” respectively. On the former, the entire quintet has features, while the challenging McBride track (from his first CD) with its catchy melody is a personal favorite. “Just in Time” is taken at brisk pace for a ballad, as Dease’s tonguing is amazing.
Other memorable numbers include Dease’s tribute to the Heath Brothers (“All Heath”) as Jimmy Heath is Michael’s favorite tenor sax player.(The man has good taste..), and Freddie Hubbard’s “Take it to the Ozone.”
Hubbard’s power and virtuosity has kept this tune from being tackled often by other jazz musicians. Fearless Michael had no qualms covering it and his blistering choruses would have made Freddie proud.
Trombone as a lead instrument does not get its due as many ‘bone players have to be content with an occasional feature when playing as a front line horn. Michael Dease is out to prove that the trombone can match the trumpet for lead honors. Coming Home is a testament for trombone players to get their due.
TrackList: Solid Gold, Motherland, Blues Etude, In a Sentimental Mood, Good and Terrible, Lifewish, The Shade of the Cedar Tree, Just in Time, All Heath, The Release, Take it to the Ozone