By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Beautiful Friendship
This is one of the happiest-sounding quartets I’ve heard in quite awhile.
Guitarist Tom Dempsey and bassist Tim Ferguson have played together for more than 20 years. Although both also have performed with many of the better-known musicians headquartered in the New York City jazz scene, most of their (relatively limited) discography has featured them together.
This album includes two musicians whom Dempsey and Ferguson also count as close friends for many years: drummer Eliot Zigmund and tenor/soprano saxophonist Joel Frahm. Zigmund is best known for a stint with the Bill Evans Trio some years back; Frahm has worked with stalwarts such as Maynard Ferguson and Betty Carter. Like Dempsey and Ferguson, Zigmund and Frahm are major elements of the Big Apple jazz community.
This album’s 10 tunes are a mix of originals by Dempsey (“Focus Pocus” and “Ted’s Groove”), Ferguson (“Cakewalk” and “Last Summer”) and the entire quartet (“It’s True”), and standards by Randy Weston, Thad Jones, Vernon Duke, Thelonious Monk and Donald Kahn/Stanley Styne. The latter wrote the title track.
The set is played at moderate to up-tempos, and you can feel the group’s enjoyment during the entire session. Most albums have one or two tunes that stand out, but that isn’t the case here; they’re all a joy to listen to. The interplay between the quartet members is marvelous, and I hope we’ll hear that musical connection again, when these guys get together for future sessions.