Michael Dease – Grace – Jazz Legacy Productions

by | Jul 27, 2010 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Michael Dease – Grace – Jazz Legacy Productions JLP 1001009, 72:37 ****:

(Michael Dease – trombone, valve trombone, soprano sax (track 12), tenor sax (track 5); Cyrus Chestnut – piano; Rufus Reid – bass; Claudio Roditi – Flugelhorn; Roy Hargrove – trumpet, Flugelhorn; Sharel Cassity – alto saxophone, alto flute; Eric Alexander – tenor saxophone; Mark Whitfield – acoustic guitar; Yotam – acoustic and electric guitar; Rodger Squitero, Circle Rhythm – percussion, vocals)

The trombone often does not get the same standing in the jazz community as the saxophone or trumpet, but every generation or so someone comes along to remind listeners of the beauty, power and brilliance the trombone can provide. In the new millennium, that fresh voice is Michael Dease, who has made waves on the New York scene during the past decade and is poised to be ranked in the upper echelon of top trombone players like J.J. Johnson or Curtis Fuller.

The 73-minute, 12-track Grace is Dease’s fourth as a leader and his first for the JLP label. Dease teams up with Jazz Legacy Productions founder John Lee, who produced this stunning set. Dease also chose the tunes – 11 covers and one Dease original – which reveal the trombone’s capability as a lead instrument and that work well for Dease’s all-star studio quartet – Dease, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Gene Jackson – and various guests.

The material is drawn from diversified sources that achieve a sense of jazz history: the selections have a traditional but not necessarily well-known nature. There is a supple arrangement of Bix Beiderbecke’s “In a Mist,” with sublime contributions from Roy Hargrove on Flugelhorn. The piece commences with an elegant lyricism but later shifts to a passionate segment highlighted by Dease’s dexterous and leaping phrases. That’s followed by Randy Brecker’s contemporary, exotically shaded “I Talk to the Trees.” This is turned into a large ensemble number wherein numerous guests add a tapestry of modern and mysterious sounds and tones: there is a supplementary five-man horn section with flute, two trombones, trumpet and Flugelhorn as well as percussionists who also provide subsidiary vocalizations.

Dease’s initial instrument was not trombone but tenor saxophone, which he uses during a half-chorus on an unhurried take of Miles Davis’ “Four,” probably the most famous composition on this recording date. The ballad treatment affords the opportunity to thoroughly appreciate Davis’ lovely melody and hear more of Hargrove’s Flugelhorn, Cyrus Chestnut’s sure keyboard skills and Dease’s relaxed trombone sophistication.

Latin influences drift through from beginning to end. Flugelhorn star Claudio Roditi – who has employed Dease in his band – is featured notably on the opener, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s appropriately graceful “Discussao,” which also utilizes guitarist Mark Whitfield. Two guitarists, Yotam Silberstein (another JLP alum) and Tarik Zephram, perform alongside Roditi and saxophonist Sharel Cassity (also on the JLP roster) on the lithely romantic “Setembro,” one of two Ivan Lins creations found on Grace. Ardor becomes even more externalized on Lins’ “Love Dance,” where Dease echoes Frank Rosolino’s precisely smooth style and Whitfield once again renders sensitive six-string assistance. Grace comes to a close with an upbeat translation of Milton Nascimento’s ribald “Salt Song,” buttressed by a swaying rhythmic base furnished by Roger Squitero and Circle Rhythm.

Grace is not merely a trombone showpiece. Michael Dease has also created a fine, appealing effort that is an excellent assortment of jazz standards and should-be standards. This is music that sounds better each time it is heard.

1. Discussao
2. Blues on the Corner
3. In a Mist
4. I Talk to the Trees
5. Four
6. Tippin’
7. Setembro
8. 26-2
9. Toys
10. Love Dance
11. Grace
12. Salt Song

— Doug Simpson

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