Blues that BITES!

About The Band

Updated, short bio (4/16/2016)

Bryan Dean Trio offers more than good music but an experience. One might have seen them perform number of times but it guarantees no two shows are alike. The band believes in improvisation rather than exact repeats of the tunes to keep the audience captivated.

The band won the last Southern Arizona Blues Heritage Foundation Blues Challenge. Competing with 110 bands nationwide in International Blues Challenge, they advanced to semi-finals. Each member is an honoree of Arizona Blues Hall of Fame, and Dean and Gilmore are inducted into Tucson Musicians Museum.

They have opened for many international acts such as Kim Wilson, Coco Montoya, George Thorogood and Dr. John.

The band has three critically acclaimed albums, "Pink Elephant" and "Sobriety Checkpoint," "Live at Boondocks" and now working on their fourth release.


(Long Bio, 2013)

In 2010, Bryan Dean Trio won Southern Arizona Blues Heritage Foundation (SABHF) Blues Challenge.

They performed at the SABHF Festival the following month where two of the BDT musicians, Bryan Dean and Ralph Gilmore were inducted into Arizona Blues Hall of Fame.

By winning the SABHF Blues Challenge the trio earned the right to compete in the International Blues Challenge, the biggest battle of the band held annually in Memphis, TN. The band competed against 110 other winners from all around the world. They made it to the semi finals with their own brand of original contemporary blues.

Receiving the great response at the international competition, the band is ever so ready to take their music anywhere. Most of Dean's originals are not exactly traditional twelve bar blues that starts with "Woke up this morning," but his humorous, ironic or sometimes paifully honest takes of the life and the world. Their set would be a refreshing addition to any music festivals or events.

Bryan Dean Trio offers more than good music but an experience. One might have seen them perform number of times but it guarantees no two shows are alike. The band believes in improvisation rather than exact repeats of the tunes to keep the audience captivated.

They released their second all original album, "Sobriety Checkpoint" in January 2012. Their third is a live album, released in 2015, captured the trio at their home base club, the Boondocks Lounge, where they played over 7 years every Monday night. It is appropriately titled, "Live at The Boondocks".

The trio has opened for many international acts such as Kim Wilson, Coco Montoya, George Thorogood and Dr. John.


Tucson Jams: The Bryan Dean Trio

Bryan Dean Trio brings Tucson an even bigger NYC jazz sound

By Christianna Silva

Original article

Arts reporter Christianna Silva will check out the hype behind the Old Pueblo's most beloved local artists in Tucson Jams, our new local music feature. 

Walking into The Boondocks Lounge at 6 p.m. on a Monday is like walking into a New York City jazz bar — only bigger. Musicians Bryan Dean on the guitar, Ralph Gilmore on the drums, Koko Matsumoto on the bass guitar and Frank Arciuolo sitting in on the tenor saxophone, chat on stage and fiddle with their respective strings, sticks and keys. They're preparing for another show in their eight-year long Monday night gig.

"We always start off scared that no one's gonna show up," Dean joked to the audience. "Then Kit gets here and starts dancing."

Kit Estes is not easy to forget. In all white, including his hair that is tied half up, he stomps through each song on the checkered dance floor. He keeps on his dark, Lennon-style sunglasses the entire night.

"I've been dancing in front of bands for over 50 years," Estes said.

That's not to say the Bryan Dean Trio is the perfect music to dance to — although Estes thinks so.

Their music is a mishmash of so many different genres, I wasn't sure whose concert I was at. They have a solid blues undertone, but each song is taken over on top by jazz, samba, rock, country and funk or something lower and junglier. The trio does have an obvious overlying theme, though. As the song goes on, they begin to jam and each musician gets louder, harder and more bluesy in their solos. They're having fun and the audience is feeding off that.


Dean is a true jazz musician. He utilizes the entire stretch of the neck of his guitar from the first song, keeping each solo rhythmically interesting and tonally exciting. His guitar style is smooth and his vocals attempt to mirror that. His vocal talent doesn't match that of his instrumental, but when the whole trio harmonizes during the second set, it's hard not to smile.

Jim Beavers sits alone at a long old wooden table sipping a drink out of a red cup. His hunter green polo and messy gray hair call no attention him. He keeps coming back to see the trio because Dean is "... the best! And the best will tell you so."

"Plus he gives me guitar lessons," Beavers said with a smile.

Gilmore, the drummer, is the obvious heart of the band. He plays with his eyes closed and his mouth tight and all of the motion comes from small flicks in his wrist. Never too snare heavy, he drives the songs forward no matter the style — although his samba is particularly thrilling. He's played drums all across the country, but landed in Tucson for the music environment.

"It's not as much cutthroat," Gilmore said. "We can all intermingle."

As an unashamed fangirl of all things female bassist, I came in with a slight bias and left convinced that girls really do it better. Matsumoto held the band steady with funky bass lines and ripped through solos, making the audience stare in awe at the normally talked-over lower notes. Her long black hair was parted in two in front of her and it moved as her fingers found their home on the long neck of her bass.

Matsumoto confidently said her favorite of the Trio's genres is "anything funky."

Arciuolo isn't a member of the band, but you wouldn't be able to tell that from watching. He actively plays in each song, moving up to the higher notes on his tenor saxophone with purpose and ease. He jams with the others as if he has been for years and it sounds as if it belongs with the Trio.

Natanya Siegel, who has been coming to hear the live music at Boondocks for years, said the reasoning behind their flow is simple.

"There's only one band in Tucson," Siegel said. "Everyone tries to help each other out."

The audience sits at the wooden tables or stands at the bars that surround the checkered dance floor and greet everyone who walks in the door like they've known each other for a lifetime — because they have.

"It's like a family here," said Tom Russ, who says he's seen the Bryan Dean Trio hundreds of times.

His wife, Barbara Russ, said there's one thing that keeps everyone coming back to the Bryan Dean Trio: "They jam and it's different every time."

"It makes you wonder why some people make it big and others don't," Tom Russ said. And it does.

Japanese bassist comes to the U.S. to fulfill musical dreams

By Kim Hartman

Original article

Tucson - When Koko Matsumoto was 16 years old, she moved across the globe from Tokyo to Tucson for one reason: American rock music.

The current Bryan Dean Trio bassist’s love of bands like Guns N’ Roses and Aerosmith inspired her to jump hemispheres, as she yearned to be closer to that classic red-white-and-blue sound. “No one played that kind of music in Japan,” Matsumoto said. “So I really wanted to go to the source. I wanted to come to the United States to immerse myself in that type of music.”
Neither of Matsumoto’s parents are musicians, but the now 39-year-old with no siblings said her mom and dad were really supportive of her journey overseas to pursue music.
“My parents are very Western-minded, so they loved that I wanted to come to America,” Matsumoto said. “A lot of Japanese parents are really serious and strict with their kids about music, but mine were never hard on me at all. My mom and dad have always encouraged me. They knew it was my dream to come to the United States, so they wanted me to follow it.”
As a Japanese teenager, Matsumoto began her journey in the U.S. by spending 10 months as a foreign exchange student at Amphi High School. She stayed with her local guardians and their two small children, including one who played the violin.
Initially, Matsumoto struggled heavily with the language barrier.
“I didn’t know English, so I was pretty shy,” Matsumoto said. “Japanese people often lack confidence and are always afraid of looking stupid, so I only really talked when I needed to. Like, when I was hungry, I had to tell the family that I was staying with, ‘I’m hungry.’ So outside of things like that, I didn’t really talk to anyone at first.”
But after six months, Matsumoto moved in with a second family and began talking a lot more, since there were other teenagers in the house. Her host parents had four daughters, two of whom were close to Matsumoto’s age. She spent the remainder of her abroad program with this family.
“I had a lot more conversations with the second family because of the older two daughters,” she said. “They taught me a lot of things.”
In addition to the girls, Matsumoto greatly attributed learning English to her English as a Second Language class, which she took while studying at AHS.
“My ESL course was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken,” Matsumoto said. “No one in there was a native English speaker, so it was less intimidating. I also learned a lot about other cultures. That class helped me develop more conversational, everyday, useful English. It taught me phrases and things that weren’t in the textbooks.”
In terms of her music, the Fender bassist did not play in a group, during her initial 10-month stay. Matsumoto did not know anyone in a band and felt she was not skilled enough as a musician.
Things were much different for Matsumoto, however, upon her second – and ultimately final – time to America, beginning in 1994.
After completing her program at AHS, she returned to Japan to finish high school. A year and a half after graduating, the bass player moved back to Tucson to begin her music career in America.
Having background in several different instruments, Matsumoto had many options, upon her return to the U.S.
“When I first started playing music, I took piano lessons,” Matsumoto said. “But I wanted to play the guitar, because there weren’t any girls who played it. So I did a lot of finger picking on the classical guitar, which felt natural to me, when I was 12 years old. Later, I switched to the drums.”
So Matsumoto started out playing the skins for Mid Life Crisis, her friend’s three-piece comedy band. When another drummer entered the group, Matsumoto moved to the bass guitar, which has been her musical weapon of choice for the last 17 years.
“At first, I thought the bass was not cool,” she said. “You know, it’s four strings, and I thought the guitar was much fancier and harder. But my opinion has totally changed. I love the bass now.”
Matsumoto stayed with MLC for three years, part of which she simultaneously played in The Kiko, a rock band which produced mostly original songs. She also thunderbroomed for a Carlos Santana tribute group called ATM.
In addition to playing the boomstick for bands, Matsumoto attended college in Tucson. A student by day and musician by night, she first went to Pima Community College, while staying at a foreign exchange counselor’s house.
Two years later, she transferred to the University of Arizona, where she majored in Anthropology and minored in Art History, and found an apartment of her own.
“I sucked the whole way through school,” Matsumoto said. “I struggled with college level English, along with ungodly amounts of homework, term papers and exams. I still have realistic nightmares about missing an important exam.”
“Also, I was broke and had few friends. My only enjoyment was playing gigs.”
Then it was in 1998 that Matsumoto met the man who changed her life, both musically and personally: Bryan Dean, electric guitarist of BDT and Matsumoto’s husband.
It was music, in fact, which first brought the two together.
On the night she met Dean, Matsumoto and her band at the time MLC were playing a show, in front of what is now The Playground, in downtown Tucson. Her current spouse was performing across the street in a separate band with Sam Taylor, a nationally-famous blues musician who passed away in 2009.
“Bryan saw me first and came over to listen to me play,” Matsumoto said. “Later, we started talking and getting to know each other.”
Shortly after meeting, Matsumoto and Dean started dating and have currently been married for almost 14 years.
“When I met Bryan, it opened a whole new world for me,” Matsumoto said. “I got to be around a lot of great players, and I learned so much by watching their musicianship. It really upped my professionalism as a player.”
Matsumoto and Dean first began performing with each other in a jam band called Deacon until 2004, when the musically-inclined couple incepted BDT. They have been playing together in the three-piece blues rock group for the last 10 years now.
“Playing in a band with my husband definitely helps with feelings,” Matsumoto said. “It helps me put my emotions into the music.”
Now having lived in the U.S. for 20 years, Matsumoto has come a long way since her first time in America. She is now married, fluent in English, a college graduate and a professional musician in the country that brought her classic rock.
Of course, Matsumoto still remembers where she comes from. She makes trips back to Tokyo every three years, and it is a lifetime goal of hers to perform gigs in Japan for her family and friends someday.
Matsumoto did play for her parents once, about seven or eight years ago, when they were visiting Las Vegas, Nev. She brought her mom and dad to Tucson and had a jam session with Dean.
“Bryan and I took my parents to our friend’s studio, so they could listen to us play without a drummer,” Matsumoto said. “I think they understood that we had a special thing together, and that my music was a little more than just a hobby.”
More than a hobby it was for Matsumoto. It was the American dream achieved.
Just like the music that inspired her to come to the U.S. in the first place, Matsumoto knows that accomplishing your dreams is the universal song that rings true in any language.


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.

CD Review by Miss Ella, Sister To The Blues

Bryan Dean Trio

"I judged this trio at the International Blues Challenge in 2011 at the Historic Daisy theatre in Memphis, TN. I spoke to them after I judged them during the second round of the quarter-finals (they advanced to the semi-finals). I asked them to keep me updated on their next CD release. I saw in this trio a huge talent on the fringe, ready to make a mark in the Blues world picture.

When I received this CD I was blown away! It will take you up and down the Blues road. Funny and serious, there are many life stories that perhaps many of us have lived. After all, that is what the Blues is - a life story.

This CD brings out Bryan’s throaty Blues vocals, and he plays a great lead guitar. To this, add his wife Koko on bass guitar and Ralph Gilmore with his solid drumming and versatility, while both provide backup vocals. They all have smiles on their faces while performing – you have to love that from any artist.

As the Bryan Dean Trio they have opened for many great Blues artists, including Coco Montoya at the Bisbee Blues Festival in September of 2011, Janiva Magness at the Tucson Blues Festival in October of 2010, and Kim Wilson at the Boondocks in Tucson.

Ralph Gilmore and Bryan Dean have both been inducted into the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame and the Tucson Musicians Museum.

Bryan’s first guitar was an old Yamaha that his beloved Grandmother purchased for him. She had raised him after his Mother’s sudden death when he was only three months old.

He could finally afford a Les Paul in 1978. Although Bryan has explored several worlds of music, he felt most comfortable with the Blues. He told me his mentor Sam Taylor changed his life when he took hom to the solid stage of Blues music.

The music and lyrics on this CD are all originals written by Bryan. You will get a touch of rumba and jazz, but mostly solid Blues.

Even though I loved the entire CD the songs that caught my attention were:

Track 3 – My Dog Knows (backup vocals by Koko and Bryan’s dog Jaco)

Track 4 – Sobriety Checkpoint (Guest artist as police officer is Danny Krieger)

Track 13 – Pieces of You (dedicated to the Mother he never knew)

Go to: for bookings, schedule, and info on where you can buy this CD."

Miss Ella
Sister to the Blues


CD Review by Jim Lipson, Tucson Weekly

Bryan Dean Trio: Sobriety Checkpoint (Self-released) 
by Jim Lipson

While Bryan Dean has been playing around for a while, it's only within the last couple of years that he's begun to get the fame he deserves. His second release should add to his growing legend.

While much of this album is crisp, in-your-face blues, there is a lot of wit and whimsy throughout. Although the title track is driven by its funky edge, it's a lyrical crackup. Here, Dean paints a vivid picture of being on the road and in possession of contraband. The capper comes when Danny Krieger, joining in as guest policeman, slips in some blistering guitar licks around his "ID and registration" and "get out of the car" routine.

Other tunes that accentuate this lighter side of the blues include "My Dog Knows" and "Brand New Junk." But don't let this approach fool you: Dean lays down some serious riffs with a guitar that wails and moans, and his no-nonsense vocals lead you to believe he's seen a lot of shit go down.

Dean also stays away from the familiar 12-bar slow blues and shuffles. This allows his tunes to stand out. "Hard to Believe" is perhaps the best example of how he's become more adept at this.

This collection ends with an exquisite bonus track, "Piece of You," dedicated to his late mom. The album also brings out the best in drummer Ralph Gilmore and bassist Koko Matsumoto.

March 15, 2012
Rhythm and Views


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