On Unfinished Business, veteran guitarist Dean Brown, whose scintillating six-string work can be heard on over 200 recordings, steps out with his fourth dynamic outing as a leader. Joining him on this eclectic offering, which ranges from hard-hitting funk to lovely ballads, soothing samba flavored grooves, Latin-tinged jams, greasy organ-fueled blues and cool jazz, are longstanding colleagues Marvin “Smitty” Smith on drums and Gerry Etkins on keyboards. Their intuitive sense of simpatico blends nicely on this highly interactive session with bassists Hadrien Feraud, Jimmy Earl, Schuyler Deale and Rene Camacho, Hammond B-3 organist Bobby Sparks, percussionist Joey DeLeon, trumpeter Lee Thornburg, vibraphonist Bernard Maseli and tenor saxophonists Doug Webb and Kirk Whalum. Santana drummer Dennis Chambers, who played on Brown’s powerhouse trio recording from 2009, appears on one track.
Brown stretches with heroic abandon on this collection of old and new tunes from his catalog, showing the remarkable versatility, ingenuity and go-for-it intensity that has marked his 30-year career as a guitarist-composer-arranger and educator. An in-demand figure on the global fusion and contemporary jazz scene, Brown has toured and recorded with such luminaries as Marcus Miller, The Brecker Brothers, Billy Cobham, David Sanborn, Bob James, George Duke, Roberta Flack, Lenny White, Joe Zawinul and Steve Smith’s Vital Information, but takes the greatest pleasure in his own personal projects. The aptly-titled Unfinished Business, which includes some previously unrecorded tunes originally written by the guitarist during the mid ‘80s, follows his acclaimed solo outings Here (2001), Groove Warrior (2004) and DBIII: Live at the Cotton Club Tokyo (2009), the latter a stripped-down power trio outing with bassist Will Lee and drummer Dennis Chambers.
“The title of this album is multi-faceted for me,” says Brown. “There’s the idea of being a musician in general is kind of a work in progress and tends to involve ‘unfinished business’ in terms of always paying dues, always learning and hopefully always growing as an artist. There is also the idea that there are tunes laying around that don’t make the CDs, for whatever reason. I’ve written way more music than I have records for, so there’s always more tunes. Some of these tunes on Unfinished Business are ones that didn’t make it on previous albums, so I decided to record them now. I’ve been playing them live and people have been telling me, ‘Man, you should put that tune on a record.’ So I finally got around to doing it here.”
Brown is particularly pleased with the nature of the recording during these Unfinished Business sessions. “All these tunes were recorded live in the studio,” he says, “so there’s a lot of interaction and not a lot of overdubs. I’m trying to protect that kind of stuff. I just like the integrity of the idea that all the vertical stuff happens at once. I love that live feeling.” That kind of immediacy is felt on all nine tracks from Unfinished Business, which stands as Brown’s most ambitious release to date.
by Bill Milkowski