Nov 18, 2023
Perennial DownBeat Critics Poll winner trombonist Michael Dease has embraced his role as a torchbearer for his mentors and the great jazz ancestors over his 15 deeply-swinging, state-of-the-art mainstream recordings. For The Other Shoe (Origin Records), Dease teams with the formidable composer Gregg Hill, expanding his rhythmic & harmonic palette with a flexible, in-the-moment perspective while remaining true to the sensibilities at his musical core. With the prodigiously talented pianist Geoffrey Keezer as a central foil, Dease brings along a wide-ranging collection of musicians, each specifically brought in for their unique outlooks and talents. Most notable is the inclusion of clarinetist Virginia MacDonald, along with the solid one-two punch of Liany Mateo on bass, and drummer Colleen Clark.
Gregg Hill’s music has been the subject of tribute albums before, especially two releases by bassist Rodney Whitaker and another by guitarist Randy Napoleon. The compositions Dease chooses for The Other Shoe always call for careful listening. They dart with unusual; time signatures, play with chord progressions and key signatures that require the listener to pay attention. But these are hardly avant-garde tunes – they have strong melodies, accentuated by Dease’s strong sense of the songs.
Michael Dease began his musical career playing saxophone, switching to trombone late in his teens. Three years later he was holding down a trombone chair with Illinois Jacquet’s Big Band. Since then, he has been a first call player for the large ensembles of Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove, Jimmy Heath, Nicholas Payton and more. As a soloist and bandleader he has recorded 16 albums, many or the Posi-Tone Records label.
Podcast 957 is my conversation with Michael Dease and Gregg Hill, as they discuss the elements of Hill’s music that attracts them, how Dease assembled his unusual lineup for the album, and what they most admire about one another. Musical selections include “The Goodbye Blues.”