A native of Augusta, GA, Michael Dease first played alto sax as a teenager, soon switched to tenor sax, and won all-state honors for three consecutive years on the latter instrument while in high school. Teaching himself trombone during his senior year, he repeated his all-state achievement on his new instrument.
Invited by Wycliffe Gordon to join the inaugural class of the new jazz program at Juilliard, Dease excelled in his studies, earning both his bachelor's and master's degrees. While in college, he maintained a busy schedule outside school. Recruited by Illinois Jacquet for his big band, Dease made his recording debut with the tenor saxophonist. Many doors opened for the trombonist, so he found himself playing in big bands led by Jimmy Heath, Wayne Shorter, Charles Tolliver, Christian McBride, and Roy Hargrove. He also appeared with Wycliffe Gordon, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Junior Mance, and the Billy Harper Sextet. When bassist John Lee heard Dease with Slide Hampton's band, he was very impressed with the polished sound of the young man's playing; a friendship developed and Lee soon signed him to record for his Jazz Legacy label, with the CD Grace being issued in the summer of 2010. Dease has also been active as a sideman in pop. He has recorded or played with Paul Simon, Luis Miguel, and Alicia Keys (appearing on the track "Superwoman" from her Grammy-winning CD).
Dease amassed an impressive discography while still in his twenties. He appeared on CDs by the Charles Tolliver Big Band (Emperor March), the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band (I'm BeBoppin' Too), and Illinois Jacquet's final recording (Swingin' Live with Illinois Jacquet). He also guested on Claudio Roditi's Simpatico. The trombonist recorded his first CD, The Takeover, while co-leading a quintet with tenor saxophonist Chris Madsen. His following CDs as a leader, Dease Bones (featuring six additional trombonists plus guest Wycliffe Gordon) and Clarity, both featured his potent playing, writing, and arranging skills. He played bass trombone and tenor sax on Alicia Keys' Grammy-winning track "Superwoman," while also recording with Paul Simon, the Curtis Brothers, Room Eleven, the Jason Hainsworth Jazz Orchestra, saxophonist Sharel Cassity (his Juilliard classmate), and Thomas Barber's Janus Bloc. Learning the ropes of producing from veteran John Lee, he served the veteran's Jazz Legacy label as an associate producer, mixer, and assistant engineer. Dease has produced a number of sessions for his own label, D Clef, which he launched in 2009.
In addition to his busy schedule as a recording artist and performer, the trombonist is very active writing originals, arrangements, and orchestrations. Dease is a lecturer at Northeastern University, a private instructor, and a instructor in jazz workshops at universities nationwide. Dease's prizes include winning a custom-made Rath trombone from the English manufacturer in an international competition, the International Trombone Association's Frank Rosolino Award, the J.J. Johnson Prize, and the Kai Winding jazz ensemble trophy. Dease was named a Yamaha Young Performing Artist in 2004, honored with a Best Jazz Instrumentalist distinction in the June 2004 edition of Down Beat, and also received the 2007 ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award. Dease was one of the promising young artists profiled in Cicily Janus' book The New Face of Jazz. ~ Ken Dryden