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Michael Dease “Relentless” is DownBeat editor’s pick…

Michael Dease - Relentless cover






Michael Dease, Relentless
Trombonist Michael Dease applied his extensive knowledge of big bands when preparing to record his sixth leader album, Relentless. “My big band is inspired by the sophistication of Ellington, the pacing of Basie, the fervor of Dizzy and the tumult of McCoy Tyner’s and Charles Tolliver’s big bands,” Dease said. This straightahead program consists of 10 Dease arrangements: four of his own songs, four standards and a song apiece penned by Randy Brecker and Eric Alexander. Dease’s song “Force”—featuring solos by pianist Miki Hayama, alto saxophonist Todd Bashore, trumpeter Etienne Charles and Dease—nods to the tradition of elegance in the big band aesthetic while also avoiding any stuffiness. Superb solos are the norm here, and trumpeter Greg Gisbert’s muscular attack is impressive on the title track. An intricate arrangement of Jimmy Dorsey’s “I’m Glad There Is You” showcases Dease’s mastery of trombone balladry. The fun factor skyrockets with a lively reading of “Two Bass Hit” spiked with scatting by trumpeter Benny Benack III, Dease and one of his mentors, Wycliffe Gordon, who also adds slide trumpet to this track. Like Gordon, Dease is an esteemed jazz educator, and Relentless includes one of his most democratic compositions, “Webster Grooves.” The track—which spotlights 10 soloists, including the excellent bassist Linda Oh—originally was written as a commission for the big band at Missouri’s Webster Groves High School, and it reflects both Dease’s sense of humor and his democratic sensibility. Big band aficionados (or any fan of straightahead jazz) will find plenty to enjoy on this classy disc.