When I think of the trombone, I usually hear in my head the deep, oozing slabs of sound that punctuate and accent horn arrangements like a sonic fist. Not often does one hear the trombone taking center stage or providing the melodic component in any group. But on Michael Dease's latest release Dease Bones, that is just what the listener gets. And for the most part, the results are a success.
Not only is the trombone the central solo instrument here, in a unique twist, Dease has produced an album that features many of the best young, up and coming trombonists in the jazz world (including himself) alternating solos over original compositions by Dease and others, as well as tasty arrangements of Cole Porter ("It's All Right With Me"), and trombone greats J.J. Johnson and Slide Hampton.
The trombones come on strong right away on the first track, "Personal Traner," Dease's tribute to Coltrane's "Giant Steps," which features vibrant, busy drums, Nial Djuliarso on piano and Dease and Marshall Gilkes' solo trombones. The sullen trombone intro of "Lullaby for Rita," which Dease wrote for his mother, shows the surprising versatility of the instrument. The 7/4 timed "Believe" feels groovy, with cool bass, as well as trombone weaving in and out and up and down and all over. Other notable tracks include J.J. Johnson's "Wee Dot," with its happy piano (again by Djuliarso) and smokin' trombone solo in the mid-section (trombone icon Johnson's masterpiece, "Lament" is also covered nicely), while the slower-paced "Let's Do This," which plays with dynamics, has a fitting accompanying piano melody and a sweet ending. Trombone great Slide Hampton is also paid tribute to with "Slide's Blues" featuring the great modern trombonist Wycliffe Gordon. However, one has to question the inclusion of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," which though well executed, seems out of place.
In addition to Dease and Gilkes, Dease Bones features trombone from James Burton, Robert Edwards, Nicholas Hagen, Ryan Keberle and Marques Young; piano from Kris Bowers and Nial Djuliarso; bass from Matt Heredia, Ryland Kelly and Ben Meigners; drums from Marion Felder and Mark Whitfield; and special guest musicians Joseph Alessi, Tom Barber, Vincent Gardner, David Gibson, and Brandon Lee.
Fans of trombone will of course be down with Dease Bones, but the release should definitely appeal to more than just trombone aficionados, and will give listeners a new appreciation for the instrument.