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Jazz Trail reviews “Force Field” the sophomore album by Sam Dillon

Force Field (PR8196)

Even boasting a very personal diction when discoursing, the young American saxophonist Sam Dillon brings an impressive amount of different influences to his ripe sophomore album, Force Field. Strongly inflected with the hard bop idioms from the 50’s and early 60’s, Dillon, who possesses an outstanding technique, offers a classic-derived repertoire bolstered by creative spins that show how swinging bop and post-bop traditions can be absorbed, transformed, and delivered fresh with a stamp of his own.

Dillon is primarily assisted by a rhythm section that comprises Theo Hill on piano, David Wong on bass, and Anwar Marshall on drums. However, he changes configurations, which range from trio to sextet, with the addition of guest musicians on selected tunes. They are alto saxophonist Andrew Gould, trumpeter Max Darche, and trombonist Michael Dease, who provides one of his colorful tunes to the song list, namely, “Go For The Jugular”. Flaunting a warm horn arrangement in a style reminiscent of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, this straight-ahead piece features all guests as soloists, with Dillon spearheading the sequence with rich Coltrane-isms that gravitate toward the unbeatable fluency of his Blue Train-phase.

Before that, the title track packs a punch with its grooving modal post-bop force and a scrupulous, dancing melody composed of attractive intervals. If the theme statement infuses a bit of the Sonny Rollins’ melodic charm, the rest is purely Coltrane/McCoy stuff, with Hill employing exuberant rhythmic spasms buoyed by opportune left-hand jabs, and Dillon oscillating between effortless roundness and smart obliquity in his lines. This spiritual atmosphere is partly passed to Dillon’s uptempo “Hit It”, whose main statement also incorporates that joyous briskness that characterizes the music of Lee Morgan and John Coltrane. Marshall is called into action here, exhibiting his drumming skills after effusive the solos and before the repositioning of the theme.

Hill switches to Fender Rhodes to bring that post-bop pulse-quickening to Chick Corea’s “Straight Up and Down”, another uptempo piece with a bouncy gait and incisive trumpet lines akin to Woody Shaw and Freddie Hubbard. He continues to explore the famous electric piano in a sentimental rendition of “Marionette”, a discoverable composition by Swedish pianist Lars Jansson, which contrasts with the familiar bebop flow of Parker’s “Dexterity”, here delivered in the classic sax-bass-drums format.

With a relaxing bossa temper, “Shift” is the slowest and perhaps the less interesting tune on the record. Predominantly adhering to 4/4 motions and burning up the miles with characteristic sounds, Force Field is uneven, but still enclosing moments of pure jazz passion worth checking out.

Jazz Trail – FILIPE FREITAS

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Michael Dease clearly continues to break his own barriers and push towards that sweeter spot with “Bonafide”

Bonafide (PR8188)

Trombonist Michael Dease was born in Augusta, Georgia. His propensity for the arts landed him at John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet High School, where he studied saxophone, voice and trumpet. During his senior year, after sage advice from another Augusta, Georgia jazz mainstay, Wycliffe Gordon, Dease pointed his ambition towards the trombone, what would ultimately become his primary instrument. Dease furthered his studies at Juilliard School where he earned his bachelor and master degrees. His continued journey includes several awards, including a Grammy. He also serves as an associate professor of jazz trombone at the MSU College of Music.

His latest recording Bonafide is his sixth outing for Posi-Tone Records and features a venerable line up of trombone stalwarts, including: Marshall Gilkes, Conrad Herwig, Gina Benalcazar, Sam Dillon, with the deeply swinging rhythm section of David Hazeltine, Todd Coolman and E. J. Strickland. The album is a collection of exuberant performances of equally skilled trombonists covering a wonderfully fluid collection of tunes.

A highlight includes “Theme for Basie,” a fitting title for this melody. The Basie band was known for its balanced voicing and ensemble passages. The band also articulated the notes within the phrase as a unit, giving a clean and consistent color to each section. In this case, the trombone choir and one woodwind achieve the same concept. Dease leads the way as he splits the choir into melody and harmony parts in a call and response pattern with Coolman filling the spaces. The melody is beautiful, and the band hits it, everyone playing in that clean Basie style. Dease always has inner moving voicings that keep his orchestration a joy to listen to. His solo is simply amazing, he covers the full range of the horn with a focused and controlled sound. Dease’s lines are always melodic and build motivic ideas in a manner that swings hard. Hazeltine plays a beautiful solo with the bones colorizing with backgrounds. The trombone soli is Basie-esque in its presentation, but the lines are more like what Basie’s saxophone section would present. Another testament to the technical abilities of this group.

No jazz album is complete without a blues. In this case Dease gives us an outstanding arrangement of “Tenor Madness.” Of course, Dease plays with the feel and augments the melody and the result is a fresh approach to this well-known jam session favorite. The waltz time section is devoured by the rhythm section as Dease spins his magic. Clean attack, beautiful blue notes and crazy hip fast passages, and the arch up to emotional held notes. Coolman and Strickland make the feel of the changes seamless, but no matter the time signature, these two swing! Strickland is given space to show his chops at the end against a rhythmic ostinato. This is what moves the jazz heritage forward, creative reworkings of tunes we all know and love.

Dease continues to create signature pieces to his catalog. This, like his past recordings, is a delight to savor. Each release does seem to deepen its breadth, as Dease clearly continues to break his own barriers and push towards that sweeter spot with each offering.

Geannine Reid – All About Jazz

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4 star review from AAJ for the new one “Fast Friends” by Doug Webb

Fast Friends (PR8187)

There is nothing as soul cleansing as bebop. Period. When you couple the music with the sunshine of Los Angeles (OK, when the smog has cleared) there is a medicinal, tonic effect to be had. Enter L.A. session saxophonist Doug Webb, a contributor to film and television, and member of big bands led by Bill Holman, Doc Severinsen, and Don Menza. Fast Friends is his eighth release for Positone. His previous disc, Bright Side (2016) featured trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, guitarist Ed Cherry and organist Brian Charette. Before that there were sessions with saxophonists Walt Weiskopf and Joel Frahm, and Stanley Clarke, Larry Goldings, and Rudy Royston, to name just a few. The above names attest to the attraction Webb’s sound and sessions produce.

Since this recording emanates from California—Pasadena, to be exact—you might suppose the traditional West Coast Coolness. That’s not what you get. Think Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, Buddy Collette, and Frank Morgan, all under the influence of Charlie Parker‘s 1947 California road trip as a reference for Webb’s music. The saxophonist power-washes several standards and some original music with the help of trombonist Michael Dease, pianist Mitchel Forman, bassist Chris Colangelo and legendary drummer Roy McCurdy.

Webb’s “Last Train To Georgia,” with flavors of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” opens the disc with Webb and Dease interweaving horns before each player, including Forman, deliver condensed yet quicksilver solos. The music shows great attention to detail, with fastidious swing and economical solos throughout. Hank Mobley‘s “High Groove, Low Feedback,” from his early Blue Note recordings, gets the royal treatment with Webb soloing cucumber cool, that is, hot. Same for Dizzy Gillespie‘s warhorse “A Night In Tunisia” delivered briskly, and with all due respect. Webb though, isn’t (as they say) just another pretty (blowing) face. He canoodles the Jule Styne composition “The Things We Did Last Summer,” prompting a memory of Sammy Cahn’s lyrics with help from Forman. The two standout tracks here are Charlie Parker’s “Ah-Leu-Cha,” elegantly arranged as a dance between saxophone and trombone, and “Nopoló,” a big-shoulders barn-burning blues that each member digs into with both hands and feet.

Mark Corroto – All About Jazz

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A great review of the new one from Behn Gillece “Walk Of Fire”

Vibraphonist Behn Gillece has been a fixture on the New York jazz scene for the past decade, notably in his project with one of this era’s great tenor sax player/composers, Ken Fowser. Gillece also has a cooker of a new album, Walk Of Fire due out mid-month from Posi-Tone Records and a show coming up on August 5 at 10:30 PM at his Manhattan home base, Smalls. Cover is the usual $20.

This is the most straight-ahead, unselfconsciously infectious stuff that the prolific, often ambitiously eclectic Gillece has come up with since his days with Fowser. The title track, a terse, brisk swing shuffle, opens the album. Listen closely to pianist Adam Birnbaum’s judicious, rhythmic chord clusters and you may get the impression that the song was originally written for Rhodes. Or maybe that’s just what vibraphonists come up with. Trombonist Michael Dease contributes a leapfrogging solo, and then the high-powered frontline – also comprising trumpeter Bruce Harris and tenor player Walt Weiskopf – are out.

Fantasia Brasileira, true to its title, is an easygoing bossa that Dease takes to New Orleans before Gillece ripples gracefully through the horn section’s big raindrop splashes.. Moodily resonant horns rise over bassist Clovis Nicolas and drummer Jason Tiemann’s blithe, latin-tinged, fingersnapping stroll in Bag’s Mood, Harris taking a low-key turn in the spotlight before the bandleader raises the ante.

Likewise, Dauntless Journey follows a balmy, allusively chromatic tangent out of Gillece’s resonant intro, maintained by Weiskopf, with brief elevation from Dease before the vibraphone subtly alters the groove. Battering Ram gives Weiskopf a launching pad for Weiskopf’s Coltrane-channeling, Dease’s contrasting gruffness and Birnbaum’s precise, rippling attack over quick, punchy, syncopation,

Gillece and Birnbaum blend subtly intertwining lines and then shift into separate lanes in the moody Reflective Current, a quartet number. Something New follows a similarly pensive, waltzing tempo: the point where the vamping grey-sky horns drop out completely makes a tasty jolt to the ears.  Specter, a catchy, vamping clave number, features Gillece’s most expansive but purposeful solo in this set and a welcome, tantalizingly brief confrontation between vibes and piano.

Break Tune has a subtle juxtaposition of steady, emphatic swing and allusive melody, echoed by Weiskopf before Gillece goes vamping and Harris spirals triumphantly. Artful metric shifts and Gillece’s rippling staccato raise the vamps of the concluding tune, Celestial Tidings above the level of generic. Marc Free’s production is characteristically crisp: the lows on the concert grand piano cut through as much as every flick of the cymbals.

Lucid Culture

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Dease makes this a personal and intimate statement from top to bottom

Michael Dease’s humanity comes pouring out of his trombone on All These Hands (Posi-Tone Records). His 12 original, straight-ahead compositions trace the story of the spread of jazz across the United States, paralleling the African-American migration from the South up through the Midwest and the Eastern Seaboard and reflecting the musical character of different cities and regions. Upbeat, open, and curious, Dease sings on his horn with a near-human vocal quality that makes this a personal and intimate statement from top to bottom. He is accompanied by a stellar cast, including Rene Rosnes (piano), Gerald Cannon (bass), Lewis Nash (drums), Steve Wilson (flute, alto and soprano saxes), and Etienne Charles (flugelhorn, trumpet). Special guests help out on several tracks, most notably guitarist Randy Napoleon on “Delta City Crossroads,” a soulful blues duet with Dease, and bassist Rodney Whitaker, who closes the album with a solo piece, “Up South Reverie,” a powerfully emotional performance that encapsulates the anger, displacement, perseverance, and hope in the African-American history. Among the numerous highlights are the dancing, big-band feel of “Territory Blues;” the sweet swing of “Benny’s Bounce,” which references Benny Golson’s “Along Came Betty” in homage to Philadelphia and which benefits from the light but propulsive touch of Nash on the drum kit; the party-hearty “Memphis BBQ and Fish Fry,” with its foot-tapping funk; and the sunny “Chocolate City,” which celebrates the role of the train.

Musically Speaking Blog

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With an impressive group of musicians Michael Dease has acquired “All These Hands”

Trombonist, composer, arranger, producer and educator Michael Dease is one busy musician.  “All These Hands” is his 10th CD as a leader and fourth for Posi-Tone.  It’s a musical tour of the United States and how jazz moved from town to city to region.  Dease has organized an impressive group of musicians with pianist Renee Rosnes appearing on seven of the 12 tracks, drummer Lewis Nash (6 tracks), bassist Gerald Cannon (5 tracks), Steve Wilson (flute, alto sax, soprano sax) and bassist Rodney Whitaker (4 tracks each), Etienne Charles (flugelhorn, trumpet) and guitarist Randy Napoleon (3 tracks each) and single appearances by tenor saxophonists Jason Hainsworth and Diego Rivera (on “Downtown Chi-Town“) and bassist Rufus Reid and tenor saxophonist Dan Pratt joining Dease, Ms. Rosnes, and Mr. Nash on “Brooklyn.”

Because I’m a writer and not a producer, the choice of “Creole Country” as the opening track is puzzling.  Not that the song is bad – far from it.  The piece is a swinging tribute to New Orleans but, compared to the following track, “Delta City Crossroads“, a blues-drenched duet with guitarist Napoleon, the opener feels like more like a culmination of a history than a look at the source. Complaints out of the way, tracks such as “Good & Terrible” (which has the feel of mid-60s Jazz Crusaders) and “Downtown Chi-Town” (with the smart blend of trombone, flute, and the two saxophones) are splendid reminders of how jazz music takes in so many elements (blues, Latin rhythms, narrative, improvisation) and sounds fresh.  The interactions of Dease and Charles on “Chocolate City“, their harmonies and counterpoint, mixing with the intuitive rhythm section, pull the listener in.

The intimacy of “Gullah Ring Shout” and the easy loping “Territory Blues” (both tracks featuring only trombone, guitar, and bass), plus the sassy humor of “Black Bottom Banter” (a duet with Whitaker) illustrate the versatility of the leader.  Dease can do “gutbucket”, smearing notes as if walking down Basin Street, as well as display the fluidity of J.J. Johnson in a club on 52nd Street. The trombonist knows the history of his instrument, its role in 20th Century Creative music (and more, such as when he displays his “multiphonics” technique a la the late Albert Mangelsdorff on “Gullah…“) but he foregoes technical brilliance in favor of telling these stories.  He certainly loves to “swing” and to dance; can’t miss the joy on “Bennie’s Bounce” or the spirited, decidedly funky, three-way conversation of “Memphis BBQ & Fish Fry” with Ms. Rosnes (electric piano) and Mr. Wilson (soprano sax). Let’s also give him credit for big ears. The final track on the album, “Up South Reverie“, is a stunning unaccompanied bass spotlight for Whitaker, his friend and colleague from Michigan State University.

All These Hands” not only pays tribute to the music born from the hardships, frustrations, faith, and dreams of African Americans but also to the dedication of musicians to keep the music alive.  “Alive” here means not just in the classroom but also in the clubs, concert halls, living rooms, theaters, basements, etc, in the United States and around the world.  Michael Dease is active both playing and passing on the tradition – we listeners and his students are the grateful beneficiaries of his dedication, talent, and knowledge.

Richard B. Kamins – Step Tempest

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Through struggle came this joyful, triumphant music – “All These Hands” – by Michael Dease

For Michael Dease’s 10th album and fourth for Posi-Tone Records, the trombonist, composer and bandleader chooses to take us on a trip. An historical trip with twelve stops, that is, and the mode of transportation is his music.

All These Hands, out January 6, 2017, examines the birth and development of jazz as it moved from its New Orleans cradle, up to the Midwest and over to the east coast, eventually establishing its headquarter at NYC. As Dease has noted, the migration of jazz around the USA mirrored the migration of African Americans in the early and middle 20th century, and so an examination of the music form can’t be separated from the larger cultural and social phenomenon. Dease’s music traces the transformation of the culture through the transformation of the music itself, providing his most varied set of tunes he’s yet presented.

Something Else – S. Victor Aaron

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Just What the Doctor ordered, “All These Hands”, by Michael Dease

mindset2Gathering a hand picked bunch of all stars to make the trek with him as he brings his sound and vision to fruition, Dease and his bunch make a history of jazz recording that has no dust on it and sounds much more looking forward than looking backward.  A dazzling set that’s striking in it’s ability to say something new here, this is more than a pleasingly swinging set that cooks.  A solid work throughout, this is thoughtful jazz that doesn’t hesitate to cut to the chase and make it’s point.  Exactly what the doctor ordered for that afternoon when you want to be alone with some jazz and let it roll. Killer stuff.

http://www.midwestrecord.com/MWR1169.html

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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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Downbeat hops on the trail blazed by Michael Dease on “Father Figure”

mindset2Michael 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