Sean Dobbins brought his quintet into the Dirty Dog Jazz Café last week. When Sean introduced the band he pointed out that one of the five great musicians was the trombonist, Mike Dease, and how privileged he felt playing with him. It was also going to be Mike’s first time with the quintet, something we wouldn’t have known once they began the set, except for Sean’s having tipped us off. Out of the gate the band ‘s cohesive sound concealed any unfamiliarity. They looked like they were having fun as they traded ideas and smiles.. How the heck is this done? How does a musician step in and mesh so seamlessly? I have for some time been curious how jazz musicians bring this off. Is the music that simple? Have they spent days or weeks playing together to prepare for this evening?
Most often Sean’s groups consist of musicians that front their own bands. A bunch of leaders. They understand the process and they know that under Sean’s leadership the music will be demanding and complex. They will be playing music that is definitely not off the shelf and not all that simple to play. And they often don’t have weeks to prepare..
I got a possible answer during a conversation with the group’s bassist, Marion Hayden. She mentioned two reasons it works. Musicianship and collegiality. She informed me of Mike’s credentials and his command of his instrument. He came prepared to contribute. Mike Dease had long been considered one of the most promising young trombonists ever, having been a member of Juillard School’s first class in jazz studies. After getting both his bachelors and masters degrees from Juillard he went from being ” the best young trombonist” to “one of the most prominent trombonists in the jazz community”. His buttery yet aggressive sound and his sure command have given Mike high praise from the journals, respect from his peers and plenty of gigs including here at the best jazz club in America. Mike is currently the professor of trombone in the Michigan State University Jazz Program. We were fortunate that he was in the neighborhood.
Marion stressed that as important a factor was Mike’s collegiality. This got me going to the dictionary. Collegial is defined as: with authority or power shared equally among colleagues. In a band of strong individuals collegiality is essential to success. It doesn’t mean that confident talented artists have to reign it in, it means that they are free to go with it. Luckily for us this is a common trait in jazz musicians, especially among equals.. Every week I learn something new from the very talented collegial folk at the Dirty Dog.