Review by Brad Walseth
When a Julliard-trained trombonist starts winning awards from Downbeat and ASCAP, along with ones named for people like J.J.Johnson, Frank Rosalino and Kai Winding, people start to take notice. When he receives accolades from Wycliffe Gordon, Steve Turre and Curtis Fuller, who predicts he will become one of the "world's great trombone masters" of the future, it becomes imperative to find out more. Fortunately, on young Michael Dease's new release, "Clarity," the up-and-coming trombone star proves himself worthy of the attention with a pleasing recording of fine original straight-ahead compositions and strong playing.
"Relentless" combines quotes from "Insensatez" with original changes to enjoyable effect, while "One 4 Steve" is swinging exuberance unleashed that features tenor saxophonist Victor Goines trading licks with Dease. The young artist shows his mellow side with the poignant "Lullaby for Rita," which showcases guest pianist Eric Reed. Based on the first three numbers, it is clear that this young trombonist has command of the wide range of his instrument, and can growl or purr with the best. There are times when Dease's trombone skips so lightly and assuredly that his horn could almost be mistaken for a trumpet.
"You Dig" grooves along on some jumpy piano work by Kris Bowers and a nice rhythm break spotlighting bassist Matthew Heredia and drummer Kenneth Salters. Meanwhile, Dease moves through the tunes with confidence and luscious tone. Case in point — the lovely "Believe," which cements Dease's reputation as a name to watch for in the ranks of great melodic trombonists of the current generation.
Continuing the action with more engaging songs featuring mature arrangements and excellent playing, the album ends on a high note with a rollicking arrangement of Kurt Weill's "Speak Low." For fans of the Jazz trombone, or just well-arranged and played "straight-ahead" Jazz, "Clarity" will provide considerable listening pleasure, and I have no doubt they will look forward to hearing more in the future from this compelling young player.