Part of the joy of discovering dynamic new artists is learning some fascinating tidbits about their backgrounds—even as you wonder why it took so long for their music to break into your consciousness. Dee Brown grew up in Detroit with a dual love for the traditional jazz his dad loved, and the Motown records his mom played for him. Once he started developing as a guitarist, he formed a band in high school called “Foreplay” (why does that sound so familiar?!) that played all over town and earned them attention from Quincy Jones.
In college, Brown earned a degree in Biology & Respiratory Therapy while also taking many music classes and working on becoming a better vocalist. He was actually renowned as a vocalist for a long time after he formed a BoyzIIMen-like group called One Wish, which was nominated for a Nashville music award and won a Metro Times Detroit Music Award as “Best Single By A Local Artist.” He made his transition into R&B driven instrumental music when he and saxophonist Gentry Shelby formed “Shelby Brown”; their album Miracle spawned a #1 hit (“Come Into My Heart,” written and produced by Brown) on the DMX Smooth Jazz chart.
Currently playing with Guitars & Saxes, Tim Bowman’s been putting funky Detroit soul on the smooth jazz map for a few years now. Dee Brown is another guitarist steeped in jazz, soul and gospel who will no doubt give Bowman a run for his Motor City money with his impeccably produced, chock full of potential radio hits solo debut No Time To Waste. Brown embodies the album title immediately, wasting no time in getting the listener grooving to the infectious, thumping easy funk of “Blue Street”. It’s clear from the start that Brown is comfortable ensembling with the sax; the song’s hook is driven by a powerful guitar/sax duality, and Dezie McCullers, Jr. later gets a punchy tenor solo. The romantic title track has a mystical old school ambience and a sweet sax intro; then McCullers creates a lovely harmony line on tenor behind Brown’s silky electric melody and some cool backing vocals. The easy flowing uptempo vibe continues on “Confessions,” a bright, happy party tune which backs the guitarist’s crisp lines with well placed horn accents.
Brown has the best of both worlds on “Sunday Jazz,” blending his jazz and gospel influences and guitar and sax behind a batch of female vocalists that sound like this decade’s equivalent of En Vogue. The praise vibe continues after hours with the funky, bass driven party atmosphere of “Dee Brown’s Place.” If this song is intended to be somewhat autobiographical, then Brown’s telling a story of opening his musical heart to the groove of Dave Henderson’s bass, a lot of passion packed soloing by McCullers and of course, his own strong sense of improvisation. “Together As One” is a short interlude that functions as a teaser, almost as if Brown is tuning up, quietly waiting to charm us—which he does, ever so coolly, joined by those female vocalists on the swaying “Before I Began” and the spirited, mid-tempo “Reunited,” both of which feature some of Brown’s best melodic and rhythmic playing. “El Spanyo” is lively, atmospheric and discofied all the way, while “Wings Of Love” is a powerful, inspirational ballad featuring Gerard Brooks’ heart tugging vocals between Brown’s laid back interludes. No Time To Waste wraps with two tracks that perfectly reflect the guitarist’s love for up-groovin’ dance tunes (the happy, churchified, sax-guitar driven funk tune “Call Me Up”) and the thoughtful, elegant “Beautiful Melodic,” on which Brown and McCullers are at their romantic and expressive best. There’s also a hidden reprise of “Wings Of Love” if you keep the CD in long enough!
No Time To Waste marks the emergence of Dee Brown as an all around talent as a composer (he co-wrote most of the material), producer (he co-produces with G. Mitchell) and performer. While it’s great to hear him ensembling with great vocalists and especially with McCullers’ exciting sax, it would be an even better collection overall if Brown stepped out more on each track and showed off the depths of his amazing guitar chops. Even as we would like to hear more of those strings, however, this is still one of the best indie smooth jazz releases of 2007.