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Chance Meeting Lands Junior Role as Drummer on “Father Figure” by Michael Dease

mindset2A UT student drummer has made his professional debut on a recently released album.

Luther Allison, a junior jazz student in UT’s School of Music, recently recorded on jazz trombonist Michael Dease’s newest album, Father Figure, which was released on April 22.

When one of his professors recommended him for the drummer at the Jazz Trombone Institute summer camp in Brevard, North Carolina, Allison never imagined the doors that would open for him.

“My father would always tell me ‘Always be ready because you never know when people will discover you,’” said Allison.

Dease was performing at the camp and was impressed by Allison’s talent on the drums. It was there that Dease asked Allison to perform on his album.

In early October, Allison drove eleven hours from Hess Hall to Brooklyn, New York, to meet with Dease and other professional and collegiate musicians performing on the album. They spent the following week rehearsing, recording the album, and performing shows in New York and Michigan, getting little sleep and practicing through the night.

“I was having the time of my life,” said Allison. “I was sleeping for an hour and a half or two hours a night, but my adrenaline was pumping the whole week, so missing sleep wasn’t an issue.”

“I knew right away, from his phone interview, that I was about to meet a special soul full of passion and humility,” said Dease. “After our first rehearsal I was convinced of his immense talent, which is somewhat hidden by his sincerity and maturity.”

The opportunity to record with Dease allowed Allison to showcase his skills but also taught him a valuable lesson.

“The biggest lesson I learned from this experience is to pace myself, whether it be musically or in my life in general,” said Allison. “If this is the career path I want to have in the future, I have to be in shape mentally, physically, emotionally, and professionally to keep up with the lifestyle.”

Allison is already a disciplined musician. He practices five hours a day and maintains a 3.7 grade point average. He also takes to heart the advice and constructive feedback of his professors and mentors.

“Mentorship is something I think is imperative in bringing up the next generation. In order to be able to keep tradition going, you really need your predecessors to set the tone for what you need to do in the future. Dease did an extraordinary job in taking me under his wing and introducing me to other musicians. It’s both humbling and exciting—it makes me want to work that much harder because I want to live up to his expectations,” said Allison.

Recording on Father Figure has opened academic opportunities for Allison. He plans on continuing his education in music performance, with a focus on jazz, at the master’s and doctoral levels. He wants to perform and tour early on in his career but hopes to eventually teach at a university.

“Luther did a standout job in my band,” said Dease. “I’m proud to have captured those moments forever on disc, and he brought the highest level of attention, positivity, and skill to my recording session.”

Amy Blakely

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“Father Figure” by Michael Dease gets reviewed by All About Jazz

mindset2Paying it forward is simply a given in jazz. Long before the music was welcomed in ivory tower institutions and codified for classroom consumption at all levels, seasoned musicians were sharing their hard-earned knowledge with aspiring youngsters on bandstands and in basements, serving as guides, exemplars, nurturers, and teachers all at once. Those experienced players were musical father figures, helping the next generation(s) along on their quest to join them, and that’s a role that trombonist Michael Dease aspires to on this, his third date for Posi-Tone and his seventh release in total.

Dease’s paternal instincts have, no doubt, grown by leaps and bounds since he took on a larger role in jazz education at Michigan State University and became a father himself. Both experiences feed into Dease’s need to do his part to bridge the gap between generations and bolster the ranks of those on the rise. Or at least that’s what this album seems to say. Rather than build a band solely around known quantities for this date, Dease decided to tap into the youthful stream of musicians out there who are ready and eager to make their move. All of his choices in that department prove wise. Bassist Endea Owens is the biggest revelation here, possessing a wonderfully wide beat, an incredibly fine-tuned internal compass, pitch-perfect intonation, and solid technique. Then there’s drummer Luther Allison, a player fully capable of working well in mellow and molten environments, and alto saxophonists Markus Howell and Immanuel Wilkins, strong-minded horn men who work well together and apart. Add to that list two established musicians—vibraphonist and label mate Behn Gillece and pianist Glenn Zaleski—and you have a solid band ready for action.

The eleven tracks presented by that band touch on the old and new. There are originals, songs from The Music Man, winners from the likes of trumpeter Claudio Roditi and the late pianist-educator Mulgrew Miller, and classics from the respective books of saxophonist Charlie Parker and trombonist Grachan Moncur III. This crew proves adept at handling all of it. They mine bluesy veins (“Church Of The Good Hustler,” Moncur’s “Riff Raff”), bop along with the best of them (Parker’s “Confirmation”), swim in strong Brazilian currents (Roditi’s “Annette’s For Sure”), and capture the pure beauty embedded in the music (“Till There Was You”). Everybody gets a chance to shine, but it’s Dease who shines brightest. His buttery tone, monster chops, and impeccable sense of musicality lead the way. He sets the bar high here, as any father figure would, and his bandmates rise to the challenge.

Dan Bilawsky  –  All About Jazz