The buttery, assured trombonist Michael Dease is at home with everything from classic jazz to frantic bop to Brazilian samba. His fourth album as a leader finds him in fine company, with a rhythm section of pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Gene Jackson, and an excellent modernist foil in promising young saxophonist/flutist Sharel Cassity. Augmented by guests such as trumpeter Roy Hargrove, flugelhorn player Claudio Roditi and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, Dease turns in an accessible, accomplished mainstream album aptly titled Grace.
Dease has studied J.J. Johnson and Curtis Fuller, but he carves out his own territory on McCoy Tyner’s “Blues on the Corner,” a ballad version of Miles Davis’ “Four” and a nifty expansion of Herbie Hancock’s “Toys” that features nicely doubled lines by Dease and Chestnut. The Dease terrain is burred and warm and fluid; his is jazz music for lovers, though it’s never mere background music. Even on a breakneck version of Oscar Peterson’s “Tippin’,” during which Chestnut plays ridiculously fast and pearly lines, Dease maintains an affectionate, wise tone. He’s always likeable, his touch soft no matter how aggressive his attack.
Jazz Legacy Productions co-founder John Lee has produced well here, providing a sonic environment of warmth and roundedness. The selections are diverse, the pacing fine and the one original—the title track—is sturdy, demonstrating the empathy between Dease and Jackson. Next time, more Dease originals, please.