Michael Dease didn’t take up trombone until age 17. Nine months after switching from saxophone, the Augusta, Ga., native entered Juilliard’s inaugural 2001 jazz class, on his way to becoming one of jazz’s most impressive young soloists on any instrument. He spent the next 12 years in New York, teaching at Queens College and the New School, thriving as a leader and getting snapped up by the big bands of Illinois Jacquet, Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, Nicholas Payton, David Weiss, Charles Tolliver, and more. In 2012 he took a professorship at Michigan State University in East Lansing, where he now lives with his wife, percussion professor Gwendolyn Dease, and their two young daughters. In the middle of a family jaunt through the South, the trombonist was able to break away and visit our correspondent in nearby Athens, Ga. Deep listening, discussion, and burrito-eating ensued.
Listen to a Spotify playlist featuring most of the songs in this Before & After: