Years ago, while interviewing John Abercrombie, I was a bit surprised at how highly he regarded the combination of guitar and organ as a unique presence in music, one that held not only an esteemed side wing in the jazz halls but provided a warm and funky venue for really dialed-in players. Tom Dempsey noticed the same element when listening to LPs by Wes Montgomery as he played in tandem with Jimmy Smith and Melvin Rhyne, later Kenny Burrell with the omnipresent Smith, and boom!, that was that. He had his direction as a guitarist, here playing beside spirited organist Ron Oswanski as drummer Alvin Atkinson lays the foundations down.
What struck me right off the bat is Dempsey's eschewal of vibrato in the CD, something exceedingly rare in guitar play any more. In such a mode, you'd better hit the notes perfectly and ride 'n wrangle 'em carefully if you wanna get away with such daredevilry, and Dempsey does just that. This is guitar playing in one of its purest senses, where the slightest error becomes exceedingly obvious, yet Tom dots all the i's and crosses all the t's effortlessly, with invention. Don't know if he picked that up from lessons with his mentor, the esteemed late Ted Dunbar, but you'll find not a single rocker on Earth playing that way and damned few jazzbos. Intriguing in and of itself.
Dempsey notes that he covered Paul Simon's Bridge over Troubled Water by way of Aretha Franklin's take on the song, and, sure enough, there's a sassy funky soul streak running through the cut, mellow but swingin'. My fave, though, is Pat-a-Tat-Tat, Tom's tribute to the immortal Pat Martino, as it contains quite a flavor of the undersung Steve Khan alongside a fusion vibe brimming with undiluted exuberance. Gotta say, however, that his wry The Big Bailout, named for the modern banking debacle, is a close second, also written by the guitar player, and a hopping number. Atkinson's drums are particularly noticeable here, a complete rhythm section unto themselves, and Oswanski's, as ever, both complementary and individual.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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