Michael Dease – The Other Shoe – Origin Records

by | Mar 27, 2023 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Something special from trombonist, Michael Dease…

Michael Dease – The Other Shoe (The Music of Gregg Hill) – Origin Records #Origin 82868 (69:06) ****1/2

(Michael Dease – trombone & baritone sax (# 4, 7, 10), percussion; Virginia MacDonald – clarinet; Geoffrey Keezer – Piano (# 1,2, 3, 5, 6, 9); Luther Allison – piano (#4, 7, 8) & Fender Rhodes (#10); Liany Mateo – bass; Colleen Clark – drums. With special guests: Rodney Whitaker – bass (#3); Kevin Jones & Gwendolyn Dease – percussion (#5, 7, 10); Joel Perez – trombone (#4, 7 )

Michael Dease has been on my radar screen for many years as one of the pre-eminent active jazz trombonists, both first call for any major big band, as well as a leader (fifteen albums already, with nine on the straight ahead label, Posi-Tone). Dease’s trombone tone combines the best of old school with modern post bop cred. Round and full, with a rich bottom end, Michael’s trombone fits it everywhere, whether it be a classic blues, or an edgy tune with avant leanings. At 40 years old, he has already won the Downbeat Critics poll (he had my vote..), as Best Jazz Trombonist, two times.

Dease came up under the mentorship of Wycliffe Gordon, and studied at Juilliard. Having stints in the big bands of  Christian McBride, Charles Tolliver, and Roy Hargrove, put him in good stead to go out on his own, exploring both his own book, as well as the classics of others.

On Michael’s latest CD, The Other Shoe,  just released on Origin Records, Dease for the first time devotes an entire release to the compositions of a sole artist, Gregg Hill. Gregg has published over 160 pieces, so Dease had plenty to choose from.

Dease’s band mates are a mixture of well deserving younger artists, along with veteran pianist, Geoffrey Keezer, who plays on six tracks. Luther Allison takes over the keyboards on four tunes. Clarinetist, Virginia MacDonald, shares the front line with Dease, while Michael broadens the sound palette while playing baritone sax on three tracks.

The track list combines composer Hill’s wide ranging prowess, with compositions ranging from straight ahead and funky blues, to more challenging music motifs. 

Opening with “Wake Up Call,” a Monk meets Nola perky tune, Virginia’s sprightly clarinet adds to the vibe. “Scooter’s Dream” begins somber, yet elegant, before it enters avant territory led by Dease’s low register choruses.

“Hello, Blues” is both moody and introspective, driven by Michael’s throaty ‘bone, and highlighted by guest, Rodney Whitaker’s bass, and MacDonald’s blues soaked clarinet. “The Goodbye Blues” has its theme stated by pianist, Luther Allison, and it drips with a late night intimate club vibe.

Geoff Keezer’s piano brilliance is found on the following two tracks, “The Sleeper” and “The Classic,” of course aided by Dease. Both have a polish that just jumps out. Michael’s student, Joel Perez, takes over trombone duties on “Rio Mio,” while Dease is on bari sax. Its Brazilian dance vibe is fully evident, and deeply contagious.

“Shorty’s Tune,” written by Hill for his mother, is a showpiece for Keezer and MacDonald, and has a sophistication that stands out immediately. The title track at nearly 15 minutes, shows Gregg Hill’s compositional brilliance. Luther Allison’s Fender Rhodes adds some “spookiness” that gives an edgy base, coupled with percussion provided by Kevin Jones and Michael’s wife, Gwendolyn. Virginia MacDonald is given free range to blow freely, followed by Dease’s trombone growls. It’s a heady musical stew, and a fitting end to a marvelous release. 

Kudos to Dease and company, and a great introduction to the wide ranging jazz writing skills of Gregg Hill.

Michael Dease – The Other Shoe

Wake Up Call
Scooter’s Dream
Hello Blues
The Goodbye Blues
The Sleeper
The Classic
Rio Mio
Summer Nights
Shorty’s Tune
The Other Shoe

—Jeff Krow

More information through Origin Records

Album Cover for Michael Dease The Other Shoe


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