Trombonist Michael Dease is on my radar ever since his brilliant Jazz Legacy Productions CD “Grace” (2010) which featured compositions by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ivan Lins, Randy Brecker, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, etc and only one original song, the title track. Also, the cast of performers on the album was top-notch with people like Cyrus Chestnut, Rufus Reid, Roy Hargrove, Eric Alexander, or Mark Whitfield.
Since that particular release, Michael has released four more albums, the last three published on Posi-Tone Records. And this week sees the release of his latest album, “All These Hands”, with the leader quoted on the back cover saying that “the music of this record traces the story of the spread of Jazz throughout the United States…The story parallels the African American Northern migration and each composition deals with a reflective musical character of a major city and region.”
So it is no wonder that the album starts where it started all: on “Creole Country”, he sets the pace for the record with an excessively swinging piece where he sort of introduces the members of his superb band on the album: pianist Renee Rosnes is the first to solo, elegantly and effervescently, with flugelhornist Etienne Charles following suit and flutist and saxophonist Steve Wilson helping to state the catchy hook. After a bluesy interlude on “Delta City Crossroads” with Randy Napoleon on guitar, the group continues with another melodious and modern groove monster, “Good & Terrible”. Etienne Charles is on trumpet this time, playing with lots of fire and verve. Rounding out the rhythms section is Gerald Cannon on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. The theme of the tune reminds me of some of the better 60s Blue Note compositions.
Michael’s playing throughout is highly emotional, pensive, and illuminating, like on “Territory Blues”, where he demonstrates that he can truly shy away from playing and recording other people’s music – his own compositions have a certain clarity and color which are pretty hard to resist. Rodney Whitaker is on bass on this one. Playing the real blues. More relaxed and soothing sounds can be heard on “Benny’s Bounce”, with yet another fine piano solo by Renee Rosnes and a skillfulness that is very much on top.
There is a certain amount of coolness on “Downtown Chi-Town”, with Steve’s flute and the tenor saxes of both Jason Hainsworth and Diego Rivera shining bright. An introspective, malleable piece. “Gullah Ring Shout” opens with a sexy solo by the leader before Rodney and Randy chime in, making this an exotic-sounding endeavor with just trombone, guitar, and bass where Michael actually moans and groans towards the end. My favorite cut, at least after the first listen, has got to be “Chocolate City” with its masterful and splendid grandeur delivered through a lush, mid-tempo groove. We also get a fun-filled “Memphis BBQ & Fish Fry” and my second favorite track on offer, “Brooklyn”, another easily flowing, sympathetically subdued piece with Rufus Reid on bass and Dan Pratt on tenor sax.