Monday, September 16, 2013

Tom Dempsey's Saucy Guitar-Organ Jazz

It was not long after guitarist Tom Dempsey's first exposure to jazz guitar (Wes Montgomery's Smokin' at the Half Note) that led him to Smith's recordings and Wes Montgomery and later the classic Jimmy Smith recordings with Kenny Burrell. This is music that has been a crucial part of his music especially since moving to New York City in 1991. It informs Dempsey's organ trio recording, Saucy (Planet Arts), with Ron Oswanski on organ and Alvin Atkinson on drums.

Dempsey cites Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, George Benson, Jim Hall and Grant Green as key influences and inspiration who "remain at the root of my soul as a musician." He does a fine job job of displaying that on his peppy original One Hundred Ways that opens up this recording which ranges from originals to interpretations of well known (Bridge Over Troubled Water) to somewhat obscure (Buddy Montgomery's Bock to Bock). 

Bock to Bock is an particularly appealing selection with a jaunty groove and Dempsey exhibiting a clean, skilled and imaginative sense with Oswanski adding the right amount of grease. The title track is a lively blues with some nice playing that would make Burrell and Green happy. It is the type of instrumental that the late of Albert Collins might have easily adapted and Atkinson trades fours with Dempsey and Oswanski. 

Dedicated to Ted Dunbar, one of his teachers and mentors, Ted's Groove, has a loping rhythm and an intriguing melody. Atkinson's sets forth a medium march tempo to start, Bridge Over Troubled Water, with fascinating interplay between Dempsey, Oswanski and Atkinson who is quite imaginative with his stick work. Dempsey plays an acoustic Martin guitar that the widow of Joseph Grana entrusted to him after he passed, and his very clean and restrained playing marks the lovely ballad Always Around. Another lovely performance is the trio's rendition of Lee Morgan's Ceora, with a Brazilian touch. 

The CD closes with Dempsey's driving Pat-a-Tat-Tat, a nod to the great Pat Martino. It is the coda for a wonderfully played and delightful recording. 

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a clip of Tom in performance (not an organ trio though).

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