Since the 2006 release of his excellent album ‘No Time To Waste’ silky smooth guitarist Dee Brown has been firmly on the Smooth Jazz Therapy radar screen. The track ‘El Spanyo’ made it into the Smooth Jazz Therapy top twenty tunes of 2007 and when the CD was subsequently re-released on nuGroove it became one of the surprise packets of 2008. Not only that, it signalled a relationship with the label that now looks even stronger with the launch of Dee’s latest project ‘A Little Elbowroom’. When recently Dee talked to me from his home in Detroit, MI I asked him about the creative process that underpins this outstanding piece of work. We also found time to reflect on his musical progression, the state of the economy, his major influences and an exciting new development that has taken him behind the microphone of smooth jazz radio.
For ‘A Little Elbowroom’ Dee has co-written every one of the twelve tracks and he explained that with the exception of ‘I Didn’t Know’ (which had been in his locker since his days as a vocalist with the band One Wish) they were put together in a hectic period between January and June of 2009. Perhaps more than any of the other eleven songs, ‘I Didn’t Know’ offers a genuine glance back to the smooth R & B of Dee’s previous release which, in the way his guitar blended sweetly with sax and vocals, was essentially ‘ensemble driven’. He told me that for ‘A Little Elbowroom’ the change to a more guitar based sound was a response to the feedback gained from the prior recording. This indicated a desire to hear more of his playing and, with a touch that at times evokes the sound of his great guitar hero George Benson, he delivers on every front imaginable.
Dee reflected that another benefit of being part of the nuGroove family is the way it opens doors to collaborate with some of the great artists he is now proud to call label-mates. For instance fellow Michigan resident Nate Harasim (of DeNate fame) co-writes and produces the splendid ‘True Reality’ that not surprisingly is the first song from the album to find it’s way to radio,. Dee particularly enjoyed the ‘to and fro’ that went on between them as the track developed and the final touches which were added by the mixing skills of Darren Rahn who also features on tenor sax.
I questioned Dee about the unusual name of the album’s title cut which, in what is substantially a mellow collection, proves to be one of the CD’s more up tempo numbers. He quickly linked it back to the confidence shown in him by nuGroove and how in turn this has helped him push out musical boundaries to create ‘a little elbowroom’ for himself. Fact is Dee has continued to do this in a range of directions with the latest being a stint as radio host with www.JS108Atlanta.com for a feature on his music within the station’s ‘Sessions’ series.
He recognises one of the key drivers for smooth jazz in 2010 will be to leverage the energy of the listening public. To this end a sequence of festival and concert appearances are being planned that could well take advantage of his new Atlanta connections and a fan base in his home city which is already well known for it’s passion for live music.
Above all Dee Brown wants the music to be heard and, as a result, the genre to be strengthened. As a player who was encouraged by his parents to perform and immerse himself in guitar greats such as Grant Green, Django Reinhardt and Joe Pass, there can be no one better equipped to rise to the challenge.
A complete review of ‘A Little Elbowroom’ will appear here next week.