The professor of jazz-rock fusion in the BJC – RoLaJaFuFu: rock, latin, jazz, funk, fusion

Ever since Dean Brown completed his studies at the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston, he has always been the first name to call if a supergroup finds itself needing a jazz-rock guitarist. For this occasion Brown will arrive to CAFe Budapest fronting his own international band.

Brown’s father was an officer in the United States military and was serving in France with his family when his son was born. Brown began school in the United States, but his city of birth Chateauroux became a second home when at the age of 10 his family moved back to France, where he returns to regularly to this day. Brown’s mother was a Juilliard-educated singer who performed with the Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey-led swing bands.

Brown’s first close encounter with music occurred while he was still young, when he saw his mother working with a guitar technician, who he considered to be very cool. At first, he enjoyed televised performances by the Beatles, Ray Charles and Roy Orbison, but later on when he began playing his attention turned to Jimi Hendrix and the Monkees. During his father’s next deployment in South Korea, Dean performed together in a band with other military kids, and unexpectedly became a local pop-star, performing to full houses. This story lasted only a few years, however, for he finished high school in Virginia, making ever more frequent trips to California to learn tricks from the greats. Dean studied music at university, after which he continued at Berklee, where he graduated in guitar studies in 1979.

In an interview given to a guitar magazine, Dean stated that as a child he was told to try and understand the deeper connections in music, and to not only learn its more virtuosic elements. Dean has revealed that he learned a lot from three legendary albums. One of the albums was by John Coltrane, without whom modern jazz would not exist. Another was a recording of a club performance by the irresistible Wes Montgomery. The third album was Inner Mounting Flame by John McLaughlin’s formation, the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Dean tried to learn what the recording had to say and how it came together during his time in Boston. Of course, for students the years spent at Berklee are also a chance to perform with their teachers and stars. Tiger Okoshi invited Dean to play guitar together with his group. Although Okoshi is relatively less known today, what speaks volumes is that Dean’s predecessor in the group was Mike Stern, who in turn replaced Bill Frisell. Afterwards Dean moved to New York primarily to perform in blues bands with authentic musicians. He at first formed a rock fusion group together with Stern, after which the world-famous drummer Billy Cobham invited him to join his band. Dean has performed on and off with Cobham ever since. By this time Dean’s career increasingly resembled a “who’s who?” of the jazz-rock genre. In 1991 he began a collaboration with Marcius Miller and played alongside David Sanborn for nearly nine years. He also collaborated with the popular Brecker Brothers for four years, playing on the band’s reunion album, which was recorded during the 2013 tour, which was in turn followed by many other collaborations.

Dean, who also teaches, operates his own school with his own curriculum and is invited to hold master classes far and wide. He has also had a successful solo career with the Dean Brown Band with whom he performs regularly. Dean also releases albums, tours and his songs are also covered by other bands. His style remains to this day jazz-rock in the widest sense, since Dean has created his own blend of rock, Latin, jazz, funk and fusion. By combining these words into one we get RoLaJaFuFu¸ which is the title of his latest album. The quintet that will visit Budapest consists of American and Polish members: the famous drummer Marvin Smitty Smith and the young bass guitarist Linly Marthe form the rhythm section, while the melody is provided by Polish virtuosos. Bernard Maselj plays the vibraphone, while Mateusz Pliniewicz carries on the most beautiful jazz-rock traditions with an electric violin.

This article by Kornél Zipernovszky first appeared in Budapest’s Finest Magazine.