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Dean Brown: Here

A deftly jazzy, edgy funk effort, Dean Brown’s Here (ESC Records ESC 4903; 68:13) is also a reluctant all-star outing, as a phalanx of guests weave their signature sounds into the guitarist’s vibrant, bracing compositions. The star turns offer appropriate presence, rather than distracting showcase (or showboat solos) on songs written with their particular talents in mind. For example, the dark-shaded acoustic introspection of “Gemini” segues into an off-timed exploration via Marcus Miller’s singing, crying fretless bass-a pitch-perfect voice for the tune’s haunted quality. Likewise, the hard-edged funk beats and wicked guitar work on “Take This!” call for extreme, outrageous horns-a call best answered by Randy Brecker and Bill Evans. Though great guest moments abound (David Sanborn’s strong alto on the uplifting soul piece “Back in the Day” is another example), the biggest revelation is Brown. The versatile guitarist and writer is as comfortable with deep blue shuffle and swing (“Big Foot”) as with smooth, melodic lines (“Believe Me,” with George Duke). The album’s sole cover takes the Beatles’ “Baby You’re a Rich Man,” amps up the psychedelia with a funk twist and adds vocals with a tribal chant feel-and that’s just one of the many surprises and insights offered Here.

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