Trombonist Michael Dease is never short on ideas, but this one might be his best yet: With All These Hands, Dease traces the early migratory patterns of jazz through his own well-crafted originals. He starts in NOLA and moves along to many a music mecca, including the Mississippi Delta, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and New York. All the while he addresses regional dialects that developed as jazz permeated different regions while remaining cognizant of the need to avoid the quicksand of the past. This is Dease's take on jazz's journey, not his attempt at making a period piece.
The port of departure for this musical saga is "Creole Country," a number transported by a Vernel Fournier-esque beat that speaks to the Crescent City's melting pot culture through rhythm. Steve Wilson's flute adds color and fills gaps, Renee Rosnes' fingers dance across the keys of the piano, Etienne Charles brings warm light with his flugelhorn work, and Dease is predictably strong in his solo delivery. It's the perfect number to serve as a launch pad for this project.
Dease packs his bags after that opener, quickly moving on to his next destination"Delta City Crossroads," the first of several down-home duets to bring roots music into the picture. Here he chats with guitarist Randy Napoleon, engaging in call-and-response, moaning, vocalizing, and sighing with mute in hand. Intimate excursions like these are interspersed between full band numbers throughout the album, serving as a reminder that jazz and blues traditions are inextricably linked.
The music that follows those opening tracks further underscores Dease's respect for the history of the music. "Benny's Bounce" serves as a representation of Philadelphia's rich jazz legacy, nodding to iconic saxophonist-composer Benny Golson through its name and harmonic pathways; "Black Bottom Banter" brings Detroit and its outskirts into view, as Dease and bassist Rodney Whitaker take a short trip through the 8-bar blues; "Downtown Chi-Town" captures the resolute spirit of the Windy City in its straight-eighth bearing; "Memphis BBQ & Fish Fry" is a greasy good time, as Dease mixes it up in trio with Wilson's soprano saxophone and Rosnes' Wurlitzer; and "Brooklyn" stands firm atop Rufus Reid's sturdy bass lines. Oh, the places that jazz goes!
When taken as a whole, All These Hands proves to be both sobering and delightful, as Dease delivers one uplifting performance after another while also addressing all of the racial ills that shadow(ed) jazz and jazz musicians. Dease never turns a blind eye to history's truths, but he never lets them get the better of him either. He's a force for positivity, and All These Hands is proof positive of that statement.
Creole Country; Delta City Crossroads; Good & Terrible; Territory Blues; Benny's Bounce; Black Bottom Banter; Downtown Chi-Town; Gullah Ring Shout; Chocolate City; Memphis BBQ & Fish Fry; Brooklyn; Up South Reverie.
Michael Dease: trombone; Renee Rosnes: piano (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11); Gerald Cannon: bass (1, 3, 5, 7, 9); Lewis Nash: drums (1, 3, 5, 7, 9); Lewis Nash: drums (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11); Steve Wilson: flute (1, 7), alto saxophone (5), soprano saxophone (10); Etienne Charles: flugelhorn (1), trumpet (3, 9); Randy Napolean: guitar (2, 4, 8); Rodney Whitaker: bass (4, 6, 8, 12); Jason Hainsworth: tenor saxophone (7); Diego Rivera: tenor saxophone (7); Rufus Reid: bass (11); Dan Pratt: tenor saxophone (11).
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