Michael Dease is an inventive trombonist with an athletically tuneful sound and a predilection for bringing his instrument’s voice to the fore. Having built the foundation of his career as a section player in bands led by Christian McBride and Roy Hargrove, he has now become a preeminent leader in his own right. Within his preferred artistic setting—the bop-oriented small group—he has recorded a number of fine recordings for Posi-Tone. Father Figure, his latest for the label, is as poignant a statement as he’s ever made. The album places Dease in the dignified role of jazz elder amid a crew of young and hungry jazz musicians: saxophonists Immanuel Wilkins and Markus Howell (who split lead duties on alternating tracks), drummer Luther Allison, bassist Endea Owens, vibraphonist Behn Gillece and pianist Glenn Zaleski, who appeared on Dease’s previous album, Decisions, and who exudes an almost telepathic bond with the trombonist. The two share the spotlight on an exceptionally swinging version of “Marian The Librarian,” and create swaths of dreamy magic on “Brooklyn.” And while Dease’s limber, flickering bop lines are an undeniable attraction (check the machine-gun tonguing on “Riff Raff”), it’s his ability to shape a group dynamic that really makes an impression. On group jams like “Church Of The Good Hustle” and Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation,” he blazes a trail that his young acolytes seem all too happy to follow.
BRIAN ZIMMERMAN Downbeat site review