Perhaps the most significant thing about Never More Here, trombonist Michael Dease's seventh outing for the Posi-Tone imprint, is the striking polarity of two of the disc's four outstanding tracks, "Mirror Image" and "Blue Jay."
In a recording filled with compositions by J.J. Johnson, John Lewis, Jackie McLean and Jimmy Heath, pianist Renee Rosnes' "Mirror Image" commands respect equal to these distinguished predecessors. It doesn't readily fit any familiar jazz niche or template, possesses a somewhat stately air, and includes a gorgeous, listener friendly melody ideally suited to Dease's rich, buttery tone. Challenging and approachable in equal measure it eventually encompasses the soloistsDease, Rosnes and alto saxophonist Steve Wilsonand adds another short theme along the way. It's a thrill to hear the ease in which each of them finds fertile ground in mainstream jazz vocabulary and adapts to the piece's parameters and mood. The track is one of those rare instances in which the composition and improvisations are of equally high caliber and complement one another. If you've ever complained about the dearth of exceptional jazz compositions of recent vintage, then take a listen to this one.
In contrast to a piece of work that wouldn't seem out of place in a formal, concert hall setting, Dease's brisk blues "Blue Jay" positively screams late night club set reminiscent of one of those peak listening experiences that felt so good at the time you hoped it would never end. If only more conventional, tradition-bound jazz recordings could capture this kind of devil-may-care spontaneity. Beginning with Rosnes' four incisive solo choruses, the cumulative effect of the pianist, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Lewis Nash is like being thrust into the middle of something that's deep, wise, and joyous. Following a brief statement of the head, Dease takes charge, blowing fifteen choruses, each one sounding fresh in itself and approached from a different angle, leaving enough space for the rhythm section to shine through.
With the exception of a lovely rendition of Jackie McLean's "For Hofsa" and a stroll through J.J. Johnson's "Shortcake," the remainder of the record's ten tracks doesn't always rise to the high standards of "Mirror Image" and "Blue Jay." Nonetheless, Never More Here is a worthwhile addition to Dease's discography.
Mirror Image; A Harmonic Future; Slow Dance; For Hofsa; I Wish I Knew; Blue Jay; Shortcake; Frenzy; Lament;
Michael Dease: trombone, tenor sax (2); Steve Wilson: woodwinds; Renee Rosnes: piano; Gerald Cannon: bass; Lewis
Nash: drums; Rufus Reid: bass (6, 7, 9); Randy Brecker: trumpet (8); Jocelyn Gould: guitar (3, 4, 8); Luther Allison:
piano (5); Marcus Howell: alto sax (5); Endea Owens: bass (5); Diego Rivera: tenor sax (5); Jason Tiemann: drums (5);
David Gibson: arrangement (5).
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