The son of a military man and a jazz singer from North Carolina, Dean Brown grew up in a number of locales during his formative years. Born in France, his family moved to the States when he was two then returned to France when he turned 10. Two years later, his family returned to the States once again. It was the summer of love and something new and decidedly different was in the air that would greatly affect Dean’s path. As he explains, "Being a child of the ‘60s, I was naturally attracted to the so-called hippie scene and the music that surrounded it. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Are You Experienced? are the reasons that I started playing guitar.” Dean would later spend three years in Korea, where he began working professionally as a singer, eventually garnering a huge following.
After attending George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Brown entered the Berklee College of Music as a composition major. His classmates there included fellow guitarists Mike Stern, Bill Frisell and Jamie Glaser. One of his first gigs in Boston was in trumpeter Tiger Okoshi’s band Baku. "I replaced Mike Stern in that band in 1979 when Mike left to play with Billy Cobham,” he recalls. “Then a year later I ended up replacing Mike in Billy’s band when Mike left to play with Miles Davis.” In the ‘90s, Dean would replace Stern again, this time in the lineup of the reunited Brecker Brothers band. "It’s funny how I’ve been kind of following Mike through the years, but he’s really been a champion of mine since our days at Berklee. He recommended me for the gig with Tiger Okoshi and with Billy Cobham.”
Brown joined Cobham’s Glass Menagerie band in 1981 and that same year recorded Observations (Elektra/Musician) with the great fusion drummer, marking his first time in the recording studio. In 1982, he played with Cobham’s Glass Menagerie band at the Montreux International Jazz Festival. A document of that live gig appeared the following year as Smokin’ (Elektra/Musician). Brown also performed on Cobham’s 1985 debut for GRP Records, Warning!
Through the ‘80s and into the ‘90s, Brown alternated constant touring with sax star David Sanborn, bassist Marcus Miller and the Brecker Brothers. More recently, he has toured with saxophonist and BHM labelmate Bill Evans, with keyboardist George Duke and also with Billy Cobham.
Author: Bill Milkowski