Online home of trombonist, composer, and educator Michael Dease

Birthaday! On the Road Again: Tokyo, Japan & New Listening

35 today!  I was wondering what the first thought would be when this day came.  Here it is.

[wakes up at 3AM (jet lag)]  say to myself:  "35 huh?"  ...   [looks around, finds bottle of water]  "I should drink that bottle of water so I stay hydrated."  [watches CNN...]

Yes so that's it.  I thought about staying hydrated so I don't get tired or unnecessarily hungry throughout the day.  It was a good idea, almost exciting, and that is the narrative of today's birthday morning:  priorities shifting and maturing.  The bottle of water is tied in to my teaching today at the fantastic Seiko Summer Jazz Camp.  These kids sound so good and have an eager brightness about them, that I want to match them- even exceed their enthusiasm if I can.  The water will help!  

Don't get me wrong- I'm not completely boring, yet!  It's that birthdays "down the road" become less about the self, more about relationships, and realizing they are the the same in concept and affect.  

Enjoying a birthday is deep.  Later, I'll sit back and enjoy ....  turn of the computer for a second and chill, but mornings bring reflection.  Watching my musical brother Ulysses Owen's teach at, and grow this jazz camp is humbling and joyful all at once.  We were finding our way at Juilliard 16 years ago, and now we are poised to deliver the guidance we so craved.  It's tremendously rewarding to recount the stories we have learning from greats like Mulgrew Miller, Curtis Fuller, Renee Rosnes, Illinois Jacquet, to young(er) folks. Although I'd prefer (in a perfect world, as if!) to be home with Gwen and Brooklyn on my b-day (and who wouldn't???), this is a close second! The music needs it.  

These rich memories and contemplation will need to be balanced with a cigar, company and heavy laughing but that's for later.  Plus, I probably don't want to write about that so you get stuck with the ruminations.  LOL Moving on...

I'm checking out some new music - Gerald Cannon's "Combinations" - recommended.  

Alright, more later- thanks for visiting and swing on.

Mike Dease

On The Road - Daddy Stuff - More Music

I just spent a wonderful three days on the road with my wife, baby girl and in-laws while getting a chance to speak with three different university music programs.  If this is the grinding music work that folks worry about in-between shows, I'll take it!  I was thinking about this en route to the Delta Sky Club and now that I have about 20 minutes I can delve into it a little.  

A question that I frequently receive from todays teenagers is a variant on the old standard- "Are you happy doing what you do?" and "Are you doing what you set out to do?"   The question is almost NEVER stated that clearly or unequivocally and there are many forms of it, including "Did you always want a family?" or when I was playing 6 nights a week "Do you teach?"  or when I teach a week at MSU or a residency "Do you still play?" and so many strains more of this theme.  As I was answering each individual flavor of question, I realized that they were all going to the same issue- are you happy?   It's absolutely one of my favorite questions now because it deals with everything!  Practice - Role Models - Ups & Downs - Money - Swing - Relationships - Ambition - Humility - Confidence - and you name it.   I feel like everyone's specific answers to these questions will vary tremendously in the FINE DETAILS, but the common thread is the search, no the Journey and Quest for Happiness.  I think that hits at the heard of Jazz music, the idea that we collaborate to create something greater that our individual parts- we seek compatibility and dialogue within the music and it reflects our natural desire to, well... be happy!  Or substitute enlightened, satiated, challenged, loved- any of the human emotional qualities that define our sense of happiness.  

It's an interesting time in the world- nuff said.  I'm not quite ready to go off on the political thang.   It's definitely interesting in the Dease household as we learn to navigate our jobs, friends and Google Calendars with baby Brooklyn in sway.  Gwen and I make Brooklyn a priority as we plan our months, and oddly enough it has made teaching and performing even more important!  With a more rigid schedule, I'm able to devote more focused energy into my work at MSU and my commitments to performing around the world become more specific and balanced.  My colleagues know that if I'm there holding down the trombone chair or teaching a combo that I have a high value towards that organization and experience.  Having a family has made that commitment towards excellence a non-starter- and it has already shown great dividends.  My wife Gwendolyn and my good buddy Jason Hainsworth have fantastic new CDs (released this Friday Oct. 21!) on the Origin Label, I had the opportunity to produce and compose for both projects!  Last month in September I participated as a player and leader on three sessions for my good friends at Posi-Tone Records- keep an eye out for CD's by LA legend Doug Webb and stablemate vibraphonist Behn Gillece in 2018.  

Probably most amazing for me to watch is the growth with my trombone students- actually ALL the students at Michigan State University.  I keep getting these wonderful comments from audience members about how the 'bones are "throwing down" like they've never heard, and I believe it after hearing the last concert!  I really dig being a part of their story and it makes me glad to have beat the street in NYC so long to be able to share some of that experience and hard knocks with them.  We just had my good friend Russell Malone in as guest artist, and we will spend a total of three weeks with future guests this year- some of the baddest in the world: Anat Cohen, Steve Wilson, Rufus Reid and my main man Conrad Herwig.  

If you are in that boat trying to figure out what to do, remember this: Don't be afraid to dream.  Get around smart people that care about you, and that want to help you.  Have big goals and write them down.  Figure out what small goals you need to achieve to get you started.  Get to know yourself and learn what makes you happy - chase it!  Teaching the music brought me to meet my wife, and I couldn't have taught it if I couldn't play.  Everything works together- find your happiness.  ~Mike

Update Nov 18th 2015

It has been a powerful Fall 2015- I can tell you that for sure.  This terrible shift towards domestic and international terrorism is providing a dose of humility towards us all and the roles play in our families and communities.  Tomorrow is not promised.  I feel like this awakening however rude it is renews the call upon artists to be the peacemakers around the world.  Music is our artistic bridge and that cultural thread of relativity. Dizzy Gillespie’s simile of musicians being like medical doctors has become literal. We must make the world a better place through our music.  Art is life. Life is love.  


I’m not a huge fan of travel (unless it’s a vacation!) but I give it up to long plane rides- you can get a lot of things done!  One of them is this blog.  Here there are no Twitter character limits or Facebook-Safe considerations.  If you have found your way to my website and clicked on this blog, I’m going to take that as a cue that you are interested in what's going on over here- good, bad, and well… you know.   To start with some good, the jazz students at MSU are sounding great and making big strides.  I direct the jazz trombone studio, big band and beginning improvisation class and it’s inspiring to see how they grow inside a semester.  The jazz trombone students are really bringing it to lessons.  


Big news at the Dease house continues to be our forthcoming baby girl whom we named Brooklyn Parker Dease. Her due date is Jan. 23rd and we are ecstatically prepping the house for her arrival.  Grandma picked her out some beautiful furniture, and we’ve decorated her room with all kinds of colorful wall patterns and stickers.  She has about 300 stuffed animals already so when she’s old enough to snuggle with them- that’s covered.  We named her after my Mom’s birthplace Brooklyn, NY (also my old ‘hood) and after saxophonist Charlie Parker.  Yes, we are slowly preparing for her to not want to be a musician!  lol


This Summer and Fall has been exciting music-wise.  Look for recordings in 2016 with my good friend saxophonist Jason Hainsworth and his killing band Glenn Zaleski, Adam O, Jonathan  Blake and Josh Evans.  Bassist Ark Ovrutski had me produce his forthcoming CD on Origin Records called “Intersection” with legendary drummer Duduka Da Fonseca.  We’ve also had some amazing gigs with Christian McBride’s big band and I believe a new record is dropping in 2016 on Mack Avenue Records.  I’m still getting some great feedback from my latest CD for Posi-Tone Records  “Decisions” - thanks everybody for checking it out and supporting my music.  We just finished a 4-night residency at Grosse Point, Michigan’s stellar jazz establishment, The Dirty Dog Cafe to a sold-out weekend.  It was great to get to that music again with my partners Rodney Whitaker, Sean Dobbins and especially two of the our students at MSU Pierre Charles and Markus Howell.  


***Pause for sleeping through this 9hr flight.  ***


Just landed in Kiev, Ukraine on the way to Odessa.  I’m here to play trombone as the special guest with several big bands as part of their Jazz Festival.  I’ll save some of the rest for another day- I gotta build my blogging chops!!!  Thanks for checking in over here, and see you next week.  


PS, if you dig blogs like this- let me know!  Would love to hear from you.  



Michael Dease Copyright 2016