Dean Magraw is a consummate guitarist, playing with wit and soulful abandon. A performer like no other, he is part-comedian, part-philosopher and all-around musical genius. Transcending genre, he has performed with a cornucopia of collaborators from jazz organist Jack McDuff to folk icon Greg Brown, trad Irish supergroup Altan to classical violinist Nigel Kennedy.
Growing up in a musical household, Dean soaked in a smorgasbord of musical influences. His parents danced to big band swing; his sister sang showtunes and his guitar and veena playing brother’s record collection was full of folk, jazz, rock, and classical Indian albums. But it was the opening riff to the Rolling Stones’ “19th Nervous Breakdown” that caused him to fall in love with the guitar.
In his formative years Dean quickly expanded his musical knowledge by incorporating his love of myriad musical styles into his playing and writing. With his eclectic background and musical versatility, he quickly evolved into one of the most innovative guitarists on the international scene as well as one of the most accomplished and original composers, arrangers and producers around. From playing on public radio’s A Prairie Home Companion to leading up his own experimental jam band Eight Head, Dean has literally generated a new world of music.
In addition to his role as an in-demand sideman on over two hundred recording projects, Dean has proven pivotal in creating more than a dozen albums, including five for Red House Records: Wise-Magraw (1985), Broken Silence (1994), Seventh One (1998), Duo (1991), an album he recorded with Emmy Award winning multi-instrumentalist Peter Ostroushko and How the Light Gets In (2010) with Marcus Wise.
Diagnosed with MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome) in 2009, a bone marrow transplant prevented him from performing but not recording. During the early stages of his medical treatment, Dean went into the studio with his longtime friend and collaborator Wise to record How the Light Gets In, an engaging collection of highly original compositions nurtured in a refreshingly distinctive soundscape. By 2011, he was well enough to return to the state, playing with Red Planet, Eight Head and Eric Kamau Gravatt, among others.
Eric Kamau Gravatt is an American musician, educator and world-renowned drummer and percussionist, the Philadelphia native has played with world-class jazz artists and toured internationally since the 1970s. He started his career in the mid-1960s, recording with artists from that era including Byard Lancaster, Lloyd McNeill, Andrew White, Terumasa Hino, Eddie Henderson, and Joe Henderson.
Over a career spanning almost five decades, Gravatt has played with many of the greatest musicians and bands of jazz, including Woody Shaw, Howard Roberts, Albert Ayler, Sonny Fortune, Kenny Dorham, Gary Bartz and more. Gravatt’s career attracted worldwide attention while he played with Weather Report, beginning with 1972’s I Sing The Body Electric. After the making of the group’s 1973’s Sweetnighter he decided to leave Weather Report and joined the group Natural Life in 1974.
Gravatt then moved to the Minneapolis where he continued to play; he recorded with McCoy Tyner’sFocal Point in 1977 and worked as a prison guard. He has always insisted that although he was disappointed with the manner in which the business of jazz had forced him into working outside music in order for him and his family to survive, he felt no bitterness. During these years he played with his band Source Code. He also recorded with Bill Carrothers on 1986’s The Artful Dodger.
Since retiring from working in the prison system, Gravatt runs a recording studio and a publishing company, 1619 Music, and directs the group Source Code. In 2004, he toured with Tyner’s big band and also worked in a trio with Tyner and Charnett Moffett, garnering rave reviews and performing at prestigious festivals in the USA and overseas. He currently lives in Minnesota and has returned to recording with Fire on the Nile, his first release for Red House Records.
Gravatt attended Cheyney State College, Temple University, Howard University and the University of Minnesota. As an educator, he has taught at the Philadelphia Students’ Symphony Orchestra, at the New Thing Art & Architecture Center in Washington, DC and with the African Heritage Dancers & Drummers. He has lectured at Georgetown Day School, the Children’s Theater Company, Swarthmore College and more.