Dean divides his time between adventures on the jazz scene in L.A. and
around the country, more steady and mainstream work at Disneyland, and a
roster of college students to whom he passes on the lessons (musical and
otherwise) he has learned as a lifelong professional. Jazz has been his
primary interest since high school, when he was captivated by The Bill
Evans Trio recordings (particularly the later ones with Joe LaBarbera on
drums). He has remained insatiably curious and enthusiastic about trends in
jazz and jazz drumming, and is always engaging as a performer, listener, and
audience member, finding inspiration to push the envelope in his own
playing. As a result, Dean is known for energetic drive, deft facility, and
imaginative spontaneity on the drums. His distinct style is in high demand,
most often in trios led by pianists Tamir Hendleman and Greg Reitan, and
guitarist Barry Zweig.
This explorative spirit is balanced by the consistency of his “steady gig” at
Disneyland, which he has had since 1993. Dean has enjoyed the musical
challenges that come with each of the many bands and shows he has played
in over the years, as well as the dedicated musicians he has worked with and
befriended there. The storytelling approach of live music at Disneyland has
given Dean more ways to reach people through music. Whether it’s a young
child experiencing live music for the first time or an old couple enjoying
their favorite song, an immediate emotional connection with listeners
provides a contrast to the outside jazz world, where musical expression can
sometimes take on more cerebral or abstract forms.
Dean earned a Bachelor of Music in percussion from Northwestern
University and went on to graduate school at The University of Southern
California where he earned a Master of Music in jazz studies. At USC, he
studied drumset with his high school hero Joe LaBarbera, Greg Field, an
alumni of the Count Basie Band & Frank Sinatra, and another giant of jazz drumming,
Jeff Hamilton, diving deep into the art of bebop drumming and the trio format specifically.
The pursuit of music continues in Dean’s faculty positions at Long Beach City College,
Mount San Antonio College,and El Camino College. As an educator,
Dean puts the next generation of drummers through the tried-and-true paces,
and uses their up-to-the-minute interests to enrich their education as well as his own.