Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tom Dempsey: Saucy

By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Saucy

As jazz has progressed over the years, the use of guitar has changed significantly. Initially, melodic melody lines most often were done at slow tempos, in concert or ballads. A “strumming” technique was used for faster arrangements because, at the time, the facility of the musicians — and the design of the instruments — didn’t allow for high-speed single-string techniques. The guitar was used more as a part of the rhythm section, rather than as a solo “horn,” and when solo passages were taken, the multi-string style predominated. 

But that hasn’t been the case for years.

Tom Dempsey is one of today’s elite single-string artists. He has played with numerous top-drawer groups and musicians and, like so many of them, he spends more time teaching than performing. He has taught at Lincoln Center, LaGuardia Community College, SUNY New Paltz, Rutgers University and the National Guitar Workshop.

Dempsey’s trio here is relatively unique; he’s backed by Ron Oswanski on organ, and Alvin Atkinson on drums. During his earlier years, Dempsey often worked at New York City clubs that used Hammond B3 organ groups, and he loved the sound of the guitar/organ combo. You’ll appreciate it as well, while listening to this album. The delicate touch that Oswanski achieves never overwhelms Dempsey’s guitar, instead filling in the musical “nooks and crannies” in the various arrangements.

Dempsey composed half of these 10 compositions; the rest are by other artists. “Bock to Bock” is a Buddy  Montgomery tune; “Bridge Over Troubled Water” comes from Paul Simon; Lee Morgan composed “Ceora”; Bobby Sherwood wrote “My Secret Love”; and “One Hundred Ways” comes from Coleman/Wakefield/Wright. The entire menu is choice, and everything swings lightly and politely. 

I’ve always enjoyed great guitar, and I’m sure you’ll love this album.

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