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Sound Check

One minute, vocalist-guitarist Gary King is singing and strumming the kind of smooth grooves perfect for lovemaking. The next, he's expressing his funky, gritty side, a la the "Godfather of Soul," James Brown. Overall, King's repertoire is a seamless, soulful fusion of R&B, jazz, rock, and funk -- a celebrated sound that has won numerous accolades, including the South Florida Black Music Committee's Vanguard Award and the McDonald's/PACE Black Music Award, which was shared with with his band, the Dream.

"It's fun playing [with the Dream]," says King, a seasoned session player who's performed on albums by Gloria Estefan, Clarence Clemmons, and Grace Slick, to name a few. "One of the pleasures for me as a musician is to work with the most talented guys in the area, and [the Dream] is them."

Drummer Ellis Parker, Jr., bassist Gary Williams, saxophonist Danny Morris, and keyboardist Lawrence Hodge anchor the versatile eight-month-old group, whose cover-song list ranges from Brown's "Make It Funky" to Stevie Wonder's "I Wish."

The band members make the covers their own "by the way we do the melodies and adding things to the songs" like scat, King explains. He also throws a few of his own tunes into the mix.

Although only four originals are featured on King's 1994 CD, Live at Mango's, more of his songs will soon see the light of day. In the fall, he expects to release a complete album of original material.

"A lot of things I come up with, we create on stage," King says of the fresh material. "Somebody will start a groove, and, before you know it, it will become a song. We just basically try to stick to the '60s, '70s, '80s... R&B stuff."

Gary King and the Dream stick to the stuff they know best at Mango's in Fort Lauderdale every Friday and Saturday and at 811 Bourbon St. in Plantation every Thursday.

Warning: If you plan on seeing them at 811 Bourbon St., get there early. The music usually starts at 9:30 p.m., but, as early as 8:30 p.m. on a recent Thursday, no seats were available in the bar area, where the mostly yuppie patrons stood shoulder to shoulder the entire evening.

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Brian Hyman

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