Smitty: Joining me at JazzMonthly.com is a fantastic guitarist. Let me tell ya, if you are into great guitar sounds and you love the music to touch you at the very depths of your soul, you have got to check out this next cat. His latest record is appropriately titled “No Time to Waste.” Please welcome the amazing Mr. Dee Brown. Dee, welcome to Jazz Monthly.
Dee Brown (DB): Mr. Smitty, so good to talk to ya.
Smitty: Oh man, likewise, my brotha. When I first heard this record, I could not help but say to myself over and over “What a fresh guitar sound.” Man, I’m totally digging the record.
DB: Smitty we worked really hard on that. The sound itself is a sound that I came up with from a long time ago. I’ve been playing guitar for a long time and listening to so many great players like George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Tim Bowman, people like that. Jeff Beck….I mean, I can go on forever. I can go as far as to say Jimi Hendrix.
Smitty: Yeah man!
DB: I mean, I go way back and I love them all. So I took all those sounds and the purest sound that I liked the most was the clean archtop guitar sound.
Smitty: It’s slick. Now, I expected some great sound from you when I heard you were from Detroit. (Both laugh.)
DB: Yeah, the musicianship from Detroit like from years ago—I guess about 30-35 years ago, Motown was the thing, man, and, you know, Motown was known for kickin’ out hits, kickin’ out musicians, kickin’ out people who were real. I guess maybe it kinda trickled down to me anyway.
Smitty: Yeah, man. Yeah, well, now, you grew up listening to that Motown sound, right?
DB: Oh yeah, man, I’m really, really upset that, you know, maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I was really upset that I wasn’t actually in the Motown era. Like with the Marvin Gayes and The Miracles and the Diana Rosses and the Smokey Robinsons and all that kind of stuff. But yeah, I listened to Motown all my life. My mom, she loved Motown. My dad, he was a jazz man.
Smitty: Oh yeah.
DB: So I listen to jazz mostly all the time when he’s there and when my mother’s there, she likes dancing, so she listened to Motown, listened to everything that was out. I mean especially that disco music stuff. So she really liked that disco music.
Smitty: How ‘bout that?
Smitty: Well, listening to the Motown sound and listening to that great jazz sound that your dad was playing—and I’m sure he played some Miles and some Monk and Mingus and those cats—
DB: Oh yeah.
Smitty: --and when you put those two elements together, as a kid, that doesn’t leave you. That sticks to ya.
Smitty: And I can feel that in your project, this latest project here, because it has all of those elements, it has that style, it has that groove.
Smitty: And it’s a beautiful mixture, man, when you can really spend some time and blend those two styles, yeah.
DB: Yeah, I thank you for taking a listen to it and feeling exactly what I was trying to feel while I was doing the music. It is a mixture of all the things that I experienced in my past. The thing that I really loved back in those days was the funk music. I mean, when I think of funk music, I think of like the old groups like the Ohio Players.
Smitty: That’s what I’m talking about!
DB: And let’s not forget our homeboys, the Funkadelics.
Smitty: Yes indeed.
DB: Can’t forget the Funkadelic George Clinton.
Smitty: That’s right. He was the funkmaster.
DB: Oh man, he was the man.
DB: And can we leave out Roger? I mean, I know Roger wasn’t from here, but he was from that funky kinda era, ‘cause it was kinda like a mixture of James Brown a little bit.
DB: And he had that little funk thing going. Of course, James Brown, he was the one who really pioneered that funk groove in the first place. James was the man. James was the one who brought it. Horns, the groove, the funk…that was James. I listened to him and Prince, we can’t leave him out because…. Even though he came out way later, he’s like an icon today.
Smitty: Absolutely, no doubt about it. Well, I was a little curious, with all the great music that you came up listening to—How did you settle on the guitar?
DB: Oh, Mr. Smitty, you asked a fantastic question!
DB: I was just waiting for you to ask me that. (Both laugh.) All right, Mr. Smitty, this is how it all went down. We’re going to try to make this long story very short.
Smitty: All right, do your thing, man. (Both laugh.)
DB: As I was growing up as a kid, my father played jazz all day like we said before. He played like Miles Davis; he played Thelonious Monk, he played Dizzy Gillespie; he played Les McCann. I mean, I can go on forever, these horn players and piano players. He played orchestra music by Gerald Wilson and I believe he’s a guy from Detroit who did a lot of orchestration. But he played this one song. It was called “Bumpin’ On Sunset.”
Smitty: Yeah man!
DB: That’s Wes Montgomery. And I heard that sound. Now, you gotta remember, man, I’m just a baby.
DB: I said I like that sound! That’s what I like, you know?
DB: And then as time went on, I kept singing that song, even today I still hear it and know it note for note, but as I progressed in my life as a child, grew older and older, the first instrument I picked up was vocals, and then I started playing the guitar and it reverts way back to Wes, and then he introduced me to George Benson and that was pretty much it at that point.
DB: Once I heard George—and I heard the guy Grant Green and I heard people like Joe Pass and I heard people like Earl Klugh. I heard all these people and the guitar was the instrument that stuck in my mind that I loved the most. I loved the way the strings sounded, I loved the way people looked when they played it, I just loved that instrument, so after I was exposed to Wes Montgomery, George Benson, and after hearing all those horns, that was the sound that I loved the most.
Smitty: So, now, you’ve had some bands in your time. You had a very interesting band started out called Foreplay. It’s spelled a little different from today’s band.
Smitty: Who woulda thought that there’d be another group today called Fourplay?
DB: Oh, Foreplay. This was a high school band that I started back…Let me just kinda fill in a little bit. I’ve got a very good friend who I grew up next to as a child. His name was Eric McClinton. Eric was the lead singer of a group called Eric & The Vikings. They had a song out called “Vibrations” and they were Motown. I don’t know if you remember that song.