Having overseen one impressive Jazz Studies program, at Northeast (OK) State University in Tahlequah, Tommy Poole has moved on to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater where he seems well on the way to repeating that success. The subtitle of Solid Gold, the first recording under Poole’s direction by the OSU Jazz Orchestra, reads “featuring Michael Dease.” And “featuring” is no understatement here. Not only does the Grammy award-winning and DownBeat magazine Rising Star trombonist solo (superbly) on every number, Dease also wrote five of the album’s eight selections. A solid day’s work by any measure.
It’s easy to see (or, more accurately, hear) why Dease has risen to the top ranks among contemporary jazz trombonists. He’s an excellent technician (who obviously has listened to and learned from the late master Frank Rosolino, among others) who also swings in any framework. He’s a splendid composer too, and his engaging themes are among the album’s highlights. Poole makes a salutary impression with his lone entry, the muscular “Out Front” (introduced by the ‘bone section), as does Brazilian legend Antonio Carlos Jobimwith the gently swaying samba (or bossa) “Discussao.” Dease, Poole and the ensemble wrap things up in barn-burning fashion with the venerable standard “After You’ve Gone” (a shame the eloquent tenor soloist is uncredited but that’s Noah Mennenga—unlisted among the personnel —on trumpet, Charlie Chadwell on alto).
Dease authored the first three numbers, starting with the brisk and upbeat “You Dig?” (on which he shares solo honors with baritone Matt Floeter and trumpeter Kyle Hunt). “Solid Gold,” an irrepressible charmer with nimble solos by Dease and Chadwell and strong support from drummer Matt Durkee, is followed by the graceful “Decisions,” on which Dease solos with tenor Sydney Pointer (who could well be the mystery soloist on “After You’ve Gone”). Dease also wrote the sinuous “Gorgeous Gwen” and strapping “Good and Terrible” (solos on “Gwen” by bassist Mickey Webster, trumpeter Tyler Murray and trombonist Jacob Eyler, on “Terrible” by Durkee and pianist Dylan Shadoan).
The OSU ensemble is exemplary, the album’s running time and recording quality more than acceptable. Add multi-talented Michael Dease to the mix, stir emphatically and the upshot is a tasty banquet that’s sure to quicken the appetite of almost any champion of straight-ahead big-band jazz.
Hot Wax: April/May 2018
May 7, 2018
OSU Jazz Orchestra featuring Michael Dease
While this is the first commercially-released album from the OSU Jazz Orchestra, it’s clear that this isn’t the band’s first rodeo. Over the course of eight tracks, these budding musicians demonstrate firm grounding in all manners of music, moving smoothly from streamlined swing to odd-metered straight-eighth tunes to Brazilian music and beyond.If you’re looking for a solid sense of what the jazz students at Oklahoma State University can handle, look no further than Solid Gold.
With trombone heavy-hitter Michael Dease in the picture as the featured guest artist, it’s no surprise that his music features prominently on this album. More than half the tunes come from Dease’s pen, and each is chock full of promise and possibilities. OSU Director of Jazz Studies Tommy Poole’s arrangement of “You Dig?” kicks off the album with some metric sleight of hand before moving into a bluesy zone, Todd Bashore’s take on “Solid Gold” opens with muted and flute-enhanced allure before settling into a solidly straight alignment, and Steven Feifke’s interpretation of “Decisions” moves comfortably with a casual bearing. That opening triptych serves several purposes, introducing the ensemble and some of the fine soloists within it, showcasing Dease’s playing and composing, and raising awareness of the arranging skills of some fine writers whose work often goes unnoticed or unrecognized. Jason Hainsworth’s arrangements of two other Dease originals – the sly and jaunty “Gorgeous Gwen” and the riff-driven “Good And Terrible” – round out the list of songs plucked from the trombonist’s corpus.
The three remaining tracks on the playlist pull from vastly different sources. Poole’s “Out Front” uses infectious lines in fifteen and four to serve as foundational material, his sweeping arrangement of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Discussão” is pure Brazilian beauty, and his spirited stab at “After You’ve Gone” serves as the perfect send-off while further diversifying the portfolio. Dease brings his standard blend of smarts and killer chops to bear as a soloist on seven of these eight tunes, band members like alto saxophonist Charlie Chadwell and tenor saxophonist Sydney Pointer make waves and put themselves on the map when they step out front, and the OSU Jazz Orchestra ably demonstrates its might and musicality in a multitude of environments across Solid Gold. (Dan Bilawsky)
MICHAEL DEASE, TROMBONE. Oklahoma State University Jazz Orchestra; Tommy Poole, director.
In SOLID GOLD, Michael Dease’s masterful playing is paired with the wonderful sounds of the Oklahoma State University Jazz Orchestra. The two-time Grammy winning artist shows his versatility as a musician not only through his amazing playing, but also through his composition and arranging abilities. The album takes the listener through a journey of a variety of musical selections that pay homage to the styles of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra while also bringing a refreshing yet tasteful twist of new compositions and arrangements that can be appreciated by jazz enthusiasts, regardless of experience or ability. One track that especially flaunts Dease’s abilities and creativity is Gorgeous Gwen. The track is a familiar style to most jazz enthusiasts—a basic swing with hints of
a blues shuffle—but Dease provides an invigorating take on this style with modern “outside” lines coupled with beloved blues licks that would make anyone want to grab a pen and paper to start transcribing.
The playing of the accompanying ensemble should not go without recognition, for it sets the stage in such a way that puts Dease and his playing on a well-deserved pedestal. Appearing in its first commercially-released album, the OSU Jazz Orchestra boasts the university’s fine jazz studies program through its demonstration of mature student solos, top-tier woodwind doubling, and solid lead playing from all sections. These attributes are made very apparent in the title track Solid Gold. From the start, the listener hears a flourishing flute solo by Marcos Alvarez that leads into a technically challenging ensemble groove. Later in the track, one can also hear tasteful student solos from lead alto saxophonist Charlie Chadwell and drummer Matt Durkee that provide tonal and stylistic variety and both juxtapose and complement Dease’s own solos.
Everything about SOLID GOLD is solid gold, so be sure to purchase this wonderful album and check out Oklahoma State University’s jazz studies and music programs.
—Hunter McGuary Valdosta State University