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Dee Brown

On the surface, the electric guitar and God aim to inspire two polarized behaviors from people. The electric guitar is typically idolized for being loud and wild, unlike the soft billowing resonance of the violins which people associate with angels, God’s choir made in the image of himself. But smooth jazz guitarist/arranger/composer Dee Brown shows us that the guitar makes a vital contribution to choirs made in the image of God, and that the electric guitar inspires love equal to that of a choir of cherubs playing violins.

Dee Brown, born Demitris Edwards Brown in Detroit, Michigan has released his debut smooth jazz album, No Time To Waste on his own record label, De’Laf Records and distributed by NuGroove Records. He informs, "Well De’Laf Records is the record label that was formed to present Dee Brown’s music and anything he wanted to do, ‘cause you see, this is my Indie record label and of course I had complete creative decision making."

Some of the musicians who perform on No Time To Waste made Brown’s acquaintance at the church which he attends, like singers Reginald Williams Jr., his wife Asha Williams, and Gerard Brooks whom Brown assures, "The way we meet was a little strange. I had seen Gerard Brooks in church from time to time and I knew he was Reginald Williams Jr.’s friend. We meet a few times and I hinted at recording in the studio together. Gerard would always say, ‘Just give me a call.’ I had this song, which was ‘Wings Of Love,’ and I needed some background vocals, so of course, I play in church and we have lots of vocalists, I asked our Praise and Worship leaders Reginald Williams Jr. and his wife Asha Williams to record background vocals on ‘Wings Of Love.’ After they completed the backgrounds, I said to Reginald I need something on this intro and Gerard just happened to be in the studio with Reginald and Asha, so Reggie said try Gerard on that. I explained to him what the song was about and the kind of things to say and from there he was gone. I think we did three complete takes and that was it. He and Reginald also recorded backgrounds on the title cut ‘No Time to Waste.’ He is an anointed vocalist with a great talent and an even greater person."

Brown says that the title track come about during the recording process when he and his producer Gerald Mitchell were pressed for time due to Mitchell‘s hectic touring schedule. "I brought the song ‘No Time To Waste’ to the project. I felt that this was the best decision for what we were going through as we were trying to assemble the project. When you work on a project, time becomes a huge factor. Unfortunately, as we were trying to complete the project, my producer Gerald Mitchell, was on an out-of-the-country tour of Japan and Europe, but he would come home for a few day and I would say when can we get together and he would be ready to work as soon as the plane landed. I would say good cause you know we got no time to waste."

Dee Brown’s friendship with Gerald Mitchell did not take hold at first, but Brown explains how the friendship evolved. "Gerald is one of my oldest friends. I met him many years ago through a mutual friend. I told my friend, I was looking for a keyboard player for my new band and he said, ‘I know the perfect keyboardist.’ The very first time we meet," Brown visualizes, "did not go so well. Gerald and I did not understand each other’s role and we were both trying to be leaders, so I ended the relationship by telling my friend, ‘Don’t bring that guy around again.’ I was so fortunate that my friend did not listen to me. He said, ‘Dee, come on give him another chance, he is good and I really love his playing.’"

Eventually relenting, Brown tells, "So I gave in and said, ‘Ok, let’s try it again.’ Since then, we have been the best of friends. We formed several bands through the years. The one band that many people around the Detroit area would remember is L’lambourgini. The band’s playlist consisted of two or three cover songs, the rest were original songs written and recorded by Dee Brown and Gerald Mitchell."

Brown recalls, "L’lambourgini was the only band that had dance steps to all our songs and we also sing in harmony. Gerald Mitchell was even the lead singer, but quickly went keys. L’lamborgini had a complete show. We started to get more into recording, and how to use a 4-track recorder. As we did more, we learned more about the recording process and the use of MIDI. We would record in my parent’s basement for 8 to 16 hours a day or until my father told us to leave. We were working on understanding the recording process by trial and error. Now years later, we both have done many different projects and have gained a wealth of musical knowledge. Gerald and I have had a great working relationship for many years, and I felt he was the perfect producer for this project. Gerald is an inspirational musician who also loves jazz, with a techno side that brings into the music something fresh and new."

For the recording of No Time To Waste, Brown provides how both he and Mitchell used their home studios during the initial stages. "Most of the project was recorded in both Gerald Mitchell and my private recording studio. The beauty of having your own studio is you can record anytime you wish and as long as you like. One more thing, it really helps to be in a very comfortable place to express yourself. We decided to do our mixing at one of the highly sought after studios in our area Studio A in Dearborn Michigan, where we mixed with a fantastic engineer named Todd Fairwell. Mr. Eric Morgeson, the owner and founder of Studio A, performed mastering duties. We had a great experience in those studios and would recommend Studio A for all your recording needs."

One track that truly makes a connection with audiences is "Sunday Jazz," which celebrates the union of God, community and music. Sung from the angelic vocals of Audra Bryant, Brown expresses, "Meeting Audra Bryant was a little strange. We were working on the ‘Sunday Jazz’ track and I had a melody, but I felt the song needed something else like a lead vocal. Gerald Mitchell brought the song to the project."

Brown remembers, "While Gerald was in his studio at Sub-Merge Records, he meet a female vocalist that just happened to be visiting from California. I received a call from Gerald and he said, ‘Dee, I found the perfect person to sing on ‘Sunday Jazz,’ and I said, ‘Who?’ and he said, ‘Just trust me, I got the perfect voice and you may want her to sing on other stuff too.’ So we had a meeting in my studio. Ms Bryant heard the song, which had no lyrics. We all talked about what we wanted the song to represent. She said she would be ready tomorrow to record. So, I said, ‘Are you sure you will have enough time,’ she said, ‘Yes!’ That next day we got together in my studio and she did all the backgrounds and leads and wrote the lyrics. What an amazing talent and what a drive she has."

He reveals, "She also recorded all the background vocals to ‘Call Me Up.’ (from the album). Very inspiring."

Though No Time To Waste is Brown’s first smooth jazz solo album, he has worked in the smooth jazz market before. "Not long ago, I did a smooth jazz project with Shelby Brown, which did very well, so I looked at what was happening in the music scene. I listened to the new R&B station and I felt most of the music that they called R&B was hip-hop or rap, and the messages they delivered were ones I wanted to stay away from. I than heard smooth jazz and after hearing it, I saw in a vision where I could fit in. I would record a smooth jazz project that would feature guitar, saxophone and vocals. I also would include my spiritual side into the music. As you know, I am an Inspirational musician and still play in church every Sunday I am availed."

Brown relates how working with Shelby Brown inspired him to pursue becoming a solo smooth jazz artist. "A few years back, I did the Shelby Brown project entitled Miracle. This project was somewhat similar to the No time To Waste project. It included smooth jazz, vocals, saxophone, and guitar as the lead instruments. That project was released on TEG Records. From that project, we had a #1 single on the DMX Smooth Jazz chart entitled ‘Come Into My Heart,’ which was written and produced by myself."

He reflects, "I look at that as a goal and I want every song to have a shine to it. I wanted to create a project that you could play from start to finish and say, ‘I like the whole CD.’ The project was not to prove that I am this super great guitarist, but to present songs for the smooth jazz listener."

He defines, "Here is my theory on who the smooth jazz listener is. The smooth jazz listener is an intelligent listener, who is mostly into vocal music like R&B, but R&B has gone too hip-hop or rap and that message is unacceptable. Most of these people are not into standard jazz, because they did not like it back in the day, so what I did was try to play my instrument like a singer would sing. The result is that most people who like smooth jazz find something attractive to our compositions. Now remember this is just a theory and it cannot apply to every smooth jazz listener."

Prior to the release of his solo album No Time To Waste, Brown’s talents were defined by the many ways in which he contributed as a means to someone else‘s goal. "As I stated earlier, I am a full-time church musician, so a lot of my guitar playing time is spent in church supporting the music ministry. We have concerts, weddings, plays, anything that needs music; you can look for me to contribute my musical gifts. I also mentioned the first CD that featured me as a smooth jazz guitar playing was Shelby Brown’s Miracle. I also do many sideman gigs in the jazz and smooth jazz genre of music. I am also a studio musician and engineer, so I stay quite busy most of the time."

He evaluates, "At this time in my musical career, I have played so many different types of music, and I felt it was time to have a real direction as a solo artist."

To understand how Dee Brown’s soul was guided towards playing smooth jazz music, it is essential to know what inspired him to become a musician in the first place. He shares, "Growing up and hearing horn players all the time, I think became very common to me. Almost every record my father played had the horn as the lead instrument, so hearing another instrument, which was not a horn playing those same melodies caught my ear. I guess being a kid, wanting to try new things all the time, and try to be different; the guitar was my natural progression," he assessed.

He observes, "Of course, seeing Mr. B.B. King live on the Johnny Carson show gave me the most inspiration and really sent me on my way to become a real musician. I really love the way the guitar looks and sound. For me, it has so many emotions in it. I sit down to play the guitar and time just seems to fly, where time is no more something I even think about. I know you have heard the old cliché time flies when you are having fun. With all that emotion, time does not even exist."

It was Brown’s grandmother who gave him his first guitar as he re-enacts the story, "My grandmother was not a musician and I do not think she had any musical background. Here is how it went: I asked my mother to get me a guitar as a Christmas gift, so my mother suggested I ask my grandmother. I already knew my grandmother could never say no to her only grandson. Of course, she said yes. She asked my mother to take me to the music store and find a beginner’s guitar. Mom took me to my favorite music store, Wonderland Music. I her told her they would help us find a good instrument for us. My mother asked the salesman for an elastic guitar and amp for a beginner. The salesman suggested the Crestwood guitar. We picked it up that day and signed up for guitar lessons." He glows, "One of my most memorable Christmas holidays."

He admits, "Yes, I did play music to try and impress my family and friends, but you know, as a beginner, it’s very hard to recognize those intro level guitar songs. I can remember when I was in Joe Fava Guitar I, and I played the song ‘Solo Flight.’ It was my best song I could play and no one recognized it. I was heart broken. My father would come in my room and listen to me practice. He would always say, ‘Sounds like you’re getting better, keep working hard and I will get you a Fender Stratocaster.’ Now, you got the big prize at the end. This gave me more encouragement to even work harder. A short time later, he said, ‘We are going to get you a new guitar.’ We headed out to the local pawnshop that had no Stratocasters, but they had two Fender Telecasters Deluxe. I played them both and I fell in love with the blond colored instrument and we took it home. I would play this instrument until the paint came off the neck, all day and all night, I really loved it. I had many friends that were musicians that would teach me things and even let me play with their bands. I admired their ability to learn the latest songs and play them as a band. In my mind I said, ‘Someday I am going to do that.’"

After high school, Brown recounts, "I attended the University of Detroit/Marcy in Detroit, Michigan, majoring in Biology. I later went into Respiratory Therapy. As I choose my required college classes, I always included music classes to continue to feed the need to be a musician. I also needed something to get my mind off of the science stuff, and it worked as a good way to balance my study energies."

After college, he formed an R&B group called One Wish. "There were many things I remember while in the One Wish group," he recollects. "We would practice for many hours on dance steps and looking good in front of the mirror. By the time we got to the gig, we were so tuned in to what we had to do, we just did it and nothing bothered us. While we would perform, we would hear a lot of screaming and female sounds, which just made us sing harder and give the audience more." He points out, "We have ethnic festivals in our downtown (Detroit) area or waterfront. It slips my memory what festival we were performing in, but we were ready to perform on the main stage. We had maybe 60 people in an amp theater that could hold more than two thousand people. So they announced One Wish and we started singing our songs. People started running to the main stage and before we were half way done with our first song, the amp theater was completely full. What a great feeling."

He reminisces, "Being in One Wish showed me what patience is all about. I think it gave me what I needed as far as knowledge to go into a studio and get things done. It gave me the discipline and focus to having a direction and finding what is needed to get me where I needed to go. I learned so much when it comes to the music business; I found out that if you don’t have a budget to complete and promote your project, you should not even start. Just wait until you get it all together. I also found out that when you say music business, you really should say business music. I have found that it is more business than music. The most important thing to understand is, you are in business and you have to cultivate your business to grow and be successful each and every day."

He muses, "I truly felt we were on the right track before differences destroyed the group’s cohesiveness. At that time, we had so many outside things pulling us, demanding our time. I think things were not moving fast enough for other individuals and too fast for others. The demand of practice and rehearsing took its toll on others, as they found out how much work the music business really is. Although it was a tough tramp, it was a great learning vehicle, and those guys worked so hard and gave all they had to give, but they missed the patience, so it ran its course."

Comparing the recording process between Brown‘s current record, No Time To Waste with that of One Wish‘s, he comments, "Recording with One Wish was very different because I played a few roles. I was the producer, arranger, writer and the only musician. For the One Wish project, I played all the music through the guitar. I had no other instrument or musician play with me. Now, at this time, I had several keyboard players do this all the time, so I thought I would give it a try. So with my knowledge of MIDI, my brand new MIDI guitar and sequencer, I went to writing song after song."

He outlines, "DeAngelo ‘Words’ Webster, who also sang bass with the group, wrote most of the lyrics so once in the studio, all the music was tracked and our biggest job was now to sing on our songs. In the vocal area, is where we used most of our recording time. I learned so much, and yes. I did it on the No Time To Waste project. With the No Time To Waste project, all of our experience came together on both ends. Meaning, we had to upgrade to computer programs and software. The learning curve was high, but we had many friends to help out down at Sub-Merge recording studios. They all helped out and Gerald Mitchell passed the knowledge on to me. Many people would say I am more like a perfectionist and so is Gerald. So we work hard in the studio and we may do more than 2 or 3 takes. Most people can deal with us, but some have to leave saying that it is just too much. Gerald is even hard on me, as a producer should be, where I feel I have completed a guitar solo and then he will say, ‘Dee, you got to do that again.’ All I can do is try it, all over again. I think this kind of relationship is needed to have a good recording process."

Music technology has enabled Dee Brown to record his songs in a home studio, but there are other advantages available at Brown’s fingertips today that he did not have when he was recording for One Wish. The Internet has been an additional home tool that has helped Brown spread the word about his music and reach out to audiences. "The internet is the gateway to the new frontier," he surmises. "It has opened the door and I have found information that years ago would have taken weeks, months or even years to get. I have been able to shoot music around the world in seconds. This is the most important tool to have working in business today. Without the Internet and the skills it take to use it, you may as well be in the Stone Age. I am most impressed with this tool and I am proud to be a part of the cyber community."

Presently, Dee Brown is slated to go on tour in the spring/summer ‘08, with other recording artists from NuGroove Records. "At this time I understand my record company, NuGroove is planning a Spring/Summer 2008 tour that would feature many of the label’s artists like Bob Baldwin, Michael Manson, Jay Soto, Darren Rahn, Nate Harasim, Gail Jhonson and the entire crew. I am not sure where we will start or end, so please check my official web page or myspace/ for where and when the Nu Groove 2008 tour will start."

He discloses about his live band, "The band members will be made up of the guys who recorded the No Time To Waste CD. Of course, that will depend on their availability, but that was something we talked about while we were working on that project (imagining) going on tour and all the fun we would have seeing the world." He lists, "My good friend and favorite tenor saxophone player, Mr. Dezie McCullers Jr.; my good friend and the funkiest bass player I know, way back from the L’lambourgini days, Mr. Dave ‘The Pinter’ Henderson holding down the bass; one of my oldest friends in the music business, my producer, arranger and Music Director Mr. Gerald Mitchell. I have many options for the rest of the band and others who will participate in the area of vocals."

When Dee Brown isn’t rehearsing or performing while on the road, you can expect to see him on the basketball court as he declares, "I absolutely love playing basketball. I even think I had a basketball Jones. At one time a few years back, I had to play every day and that was even before I played any music. The only problem (was when) I would spring my fingers and then I was unable to play my guitar comfortably. But I was back on the court the next day with my fingers taped. I also love to bowl. I actually thought I could have been a pro. I have an average of about 202 on a good day. But now, I just go every now and then, just to have fun."

At the ending of the day, Dee Brown knows that his gift was given to him to help communities bond in a positive way. He shaped his playing in the image of God, being the guitarist to angels. For his solo album No Time To Waste, he sounds the way you would expect a guitarist to sound playing in God‘s choir and spreading the message of brotherhood.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: dee brown
  • Interview Date: 4/1/2008
  • Subtitle: Guitarist To The Angels
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