Bryan Dean Trio



Monday, Oct. 21

Walking into the long back entrance hallway at Boondocks, the first thing I heard was the sound of a Hammond organ being crucified. A few footsteps later, it became apparent that there was no organ on the stage. It was the Bryan Dean Trio, accompanied by percussionist Kevin Robinson, and the passion of the Hammond was the sound of Bryan Dean's guitar.

The Trio and Robinson performed solid, inspired blues-rock. Sometimes they detoured into funk, R&B, and fusion. While technical virtuosity was a given, the band members' prowess functioned to better articulate the mood of each particular song, not to show off. I'm not normally a fan of extended guitar solos, but in this context, Dean's playing functioned as a second voice, singing emotions instead of scales.

The polyrhythmic basis for all of the songs was like granite, but cascaded into an exciting crescendo every time. Drummer Ralph Gilmore naturally swung, again, without added filler. In fact, the whole band (completed by bassist Koko Matsumoto) seemed effortless and comfortable. Dean's voice was understated, avoiding the tendency to over-emote that plagues many contemporary blues singers. His guitar playing, which seems to be the main attraction of the band, was fluid and versatile, at times sounding like a saxophone.

Conversely, the Trio (plus Robinson) sounded like one instrument, which should be the goal of any group of people who play music together. Gilmore, Matsumoto, Dean, and Robinson fused into a locked rhythm section, landing on the kind of primal beats that are African in origin, but simultaneously intricate. Tucked in the middle of many songs were the sort of instrumental sections the Yardbirds once called "rave-ups," but instead of speeding up for guitar showcases, the band hunkered down, dropped the intensity level, and thrillingly raised it back up to seething proportions, before returning back to the structure of the original tune. And every time this happened, it deservedly garnered a steady stream of cheers from the audience.

There are venues in every city all over the world, that for at least a half-century, have featured acts in this vein. This kind of music is timeless and probably a permanent addition to the live music lexicon. But you'd be hard-pressed to find it done better than the Bryan Dean Trio.

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