This Oklahoma State University big-band project is an intense collaboration with trombonist Michael Dease, whose straight-ahead sound and bubbling font of musical ideas can bring out the best in the players around him. That happened here. Dease, who enjoys a dual career path—he plays and tours with a variety of ensembles, and he’s on the jazz faculty at Michigan State—wrote five and soloed on seven of the eight tunes performed on this session, recorded during a May 2017 residency.
The originals provide strong features for Dease and a variety of student soloists. The teasing “You Dig?” spotlights the lively sounds of baritone saxophonist Matt Floeter and trombonist Kyle Hunt, and reveals the rich timbres of the full ensemble. Hunt’s frisky trombone solo on “Solid Gold” sets up Charlie Chadwell’s alto sax spotlight. The slightly breezier “Decisions” and Jobim’s bossa nova “Discussão” feature Dease and tenor saxophonist Sydney Pointer. Dease’s bluesy “Gorgeous Gwen,” a session highlight, showcases Mickey Webster’s bass work before trumpeter Tyler Murray and trombonist Jacob Eyler get into some clever call-and-response with the song’s author. The sinewy “Good and Terrible” features pianist Dylan Shadoan before the ensemble cushions Dease’s closing solo.The special guest’s rambunctious playing adds even more fire to OSU jazz studies director Tommy Poole’soriginal “Out Front,” a beauty that also features Chadwell and Shadoan.
Dease takes a richly deserved breather when the orchestra closes the session with a romp through “After You’ve Gone.” Poole’s arrangement showcases Chadwell and trumpeter Noah Mennenga between its vibrant ensemble passages.