The Dawning by David Dyson – reviewed by Chris Mann




This is how it went…  I had been watching the Marcus Johnson Live in Person DVD and was completely blown away all over again by the bass playing of labelmate David Dyson. I’d already reviewed his first CD, and been really impressed by it, so I browsed the internet to see if I could find out what he’s doing currently. On CD Baby, I saw that he had a new CD out and so I emailed him and this treasure was in my mailbox in just a few days. 

Dyson has now moved from Marimelj/Lightyear and “The Dawning” has been released on his own Lo’hand Funk label.  As it turned out, the name of the label is very appropriate… 

Blazin’ tells you what the CD in your player is all about - FUNK.  Busy, layered basslines and phased vocals backed by an electronic but solid drum track.  I love the lazy bass and big, fat keyboards on The Dawning.  The rimshots tick along while a lovely melody unfolds.  The Stanley Clarke touches in the solo make me smile. 

Frantic is just that – snapping snare drum and Dyson working his way all up and down an upright bass.  Startling and funky.  The mood is sombre on the grand Hold On.  The social commentary is very well conveyed by the whispered and phased vocals.  It kind of reminds me of Gil Scott-Heron’s work.  It’s heavy stuff and it takes a few plays to appreciate it fully.  Guitarist Alvin White adds a superb jazz-rock tone to this song. 

Le Le’s Lah Lah is a cute 1-minute jam with loose bass and drums and father-and-daughter chatter and laughter.  Donovan James is for Dyson’s son and it combines massive funk from the fretted bass and Jaco-style improvisation from the fretless.  The drum track is very busy too.  It’s vicious – I love it – I play it often and I play it loud! 

Synth strings and a mass of harmonics with low, low accompaniment make this interlude, The Narrow Path, a gem I constantly marvel at.  I find this very moving – even spiritual.  The drum track on Skippin’ is like a metronome and that’s fine because solid time is all that’s needed behind that rough-and-ready bass and funky sax by Skip Pruitt.  This is funk on a stick and must be phenomenal live. 

Yesterday’s Smile is a slow, soulful ballad.  It has rich keyboard textures, a crisp rimshot to keep time and a sweet melody on fretless bass sailing over a phat line on the fretted bass.  Federico Pena’s old skool synth solo seals it for me.  Gorgeous!  A simple but powerful gospel message is almost whispered on I Won’t Complain Again.  Dyson’s voice reminds me of Stanley Clarke’s voice – somehow it seems appropriate. 

The urban backbeat is massive on Thief In The Night.  Dyson ventures out on vocals and I love the dark keyboards and sound effects too but, oh Lord, it’s the bass, the bass!  Layers of the stuff!!  On the strength of this, Mr Dyson should be scoring funky and stylish film projects.  There’s a latin twist to In The Midst Of, which then goes all Caribbean.  A vocal part doubles the zonky fretless melody and, though this song is yet to grow on me, I can’t deny the talent that went into it. 

If your head can keep up with Slingshot, you’ll be rewarded with a bustling, offbeat slice of funk.  I like the vocals on here; they’re scat style but they never lead you away from the funk pouring out of that effects-laden bass.  Don’t try to play this quietly – kick it!!  Slingshot (reprise) is a blast of the same, sweetened up with piano and Kevin Levi’s sax.  Nicki’s Groove is a half-rapped list of “thank you’s” and I’ll go along with that.  To make such a strong CD and put it out on an independent label must need the love and support of everybody around you. 

On “The Dawning”, I’ve been struck by a few things: David Dyson writes strong songs, he’s a good drum programmer and a tasteful keyboard player – and he’s moving into the premier league of bass players.  He has the lyricality of Mark Egan on fretless, the spirituality of Patitucci, the chops of Stanley Clarke and the sheer go-for-it of Marcus Miller. 

I’m thrilled to hear upright bass on this CD, loads of fretless bass, believable drum tracks and thoughtful songs that speak of Dyson’s religious faith.  The vocals are not outstanding but they work well on these songs. 

The first album was very strong but this is a real leap forward in writing, performance and production.  If you love the sound of bass guitar, this recording, both musically and sonically, will take you right to the heart of it.



Lo’hand Funk Records – no cat no.   Producer – David Dyson