Michael Dease is joined by an entirely new cast on The Other Side, performing ten selections composed by Gregg Hill. The musicians are excellent with veteran pianist Geoff Keezer sharing the keyboard duties with Luther Allison and three up-and-coming players being heard from: clarinetist Virginia MacDonald, bassist Liany Mateo, and drummer Colleen Clark. Trombonist Joel Perez is on two selections on which Dease switches to baritone sax, and bassist Rodney Whitaker guests on "Hello Blues."
But the main stars on The Other Side are Gregg Hill's originals and Dease's arrangements. "Wake Up Call," dedicated to an alarm clock, is uptempo and unpredictable, hinting at Charles Mingus. "Scooter's Dream" is quite episodic, starting as a ballad, becoming free in spots, swinging hard, and constantly changing tempos and moods. A pair of blues slows down the momentum a bit although they contain some fine solos. "The Sleeper" is an exotic modern piece in 15/4 time that has some passionate cool-toned clarinet and forceful drums. A ballad ("The Classic") and the Latin flavored "Rio Mio" contain their own subtle surprises while "Summer Nights" is a showcase for Luther Allison's piano. "Shorty's Tune", as the liner notes accurately state, has a late 1950s Ellington atmosphere with MacDonald's clarinet hinting at Jimmy Hamilton. The intriguing outing concludes with "The Other Shoe" which is a bit overlong at 15 minutes, has Allison's electric piano in a prominent role, and generally holds one's interest.
It is very good to hear Michael Dease stretching himself.