Dean is a freelance saxophonist, arranger, and producer living near Phoenix. Prior to moving to Arizona, he spent ten years in Minneapolis where he earned a Masters degree from the University of Minnesota and was active producing, recording and performing. In Minneapolis, he produced an album for the pop group Sugarfixx and worked closely with audio engineer Steve Wiese, former audio engineer for Steve Miller and owner of Creation Audio — part of the “Minneapolis sound.” Dean regularly performed and recorded with many great Minneapolis area big bands that emphasized original compositions and arrangements, including the Nova Jazz Orchestra and the Stan Bann Big Band. He also occasionally recorded and performed with singer/songwriter Lee Rude and played with horn bands such as The Good, the Bad, and the Funky and Prophets of Soul.
Dean spent his early musical career in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, where he attended the University of Wisconsin music school studying classical saxophone and clarinet. At the University of Wisconsin, he studied music theory with influential theorist and pedagogue Bruce Benward and jazz studies with legendary bassist Richard Davis. In addition, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater for two years, studying jazz with former Maynard Ferguson trombonist Steve Wiest (currently director of the University of North Texas 1:00 Lab Band). In 1996, Dean studied with Dave Liebman, the preeminent saxophone teacher of the modern era.
Dean has performed with many notable artists such as The Temptations, Diane Schuur, Bob Mintzer, Frank Mantooth, and legendary Count Basie drummer Harold Jones. As part of his musical travels, he’s had the opportunity to share the stage and sit in with pop and blues luminaries such as Ben Sidran, Jim Schwall, Luther Allison, and Buddy Miles. In 1990, once again narrowly missing out on fame and fortune, he toured briefly with famed Nirvana producer and drummer Butch Vig with the band Spooner, which later became the double-platinum rock band Garbage.
Dean has played in dozens of jazz, blues, and R&B groups, including the Madison Jazz Orchestra, Madisalsa, The B-Side Horns, Tate’s Million Dollar Blues Band, and Black and Blues. He cut his teeth at seventeen performing, arranging, and recording with James Brown’s famous “Funky Drummer” Clyde Stubblefield and continued to work with Clyde’s band off and on for many years. Dean also led several of his own jazz and commercial ensembles.
Dean has been active as a jazz educator and has taught music theory, composition, piano, woodwinds, and courses in music appreciation, and music business. He was on the faculty of Birch Creek Music Center in Door County, Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater Summer Music Camps, and the University of Wisconsin Union Mini Course program. Dean also spent many years as a jazz radio personality and wrote for several music and radio industry publications, including Windplayer Magazine.