Tom Dempsey moves straight to the top of the modern jazz guitar food chain with Saucy!
Brent Black / @CriticalJazz
One of the greatest pairings that revolutionized the sound of modern jazz happened over a series of Blue Note recordings with the late organ master Jimmy Smith and guitar virtuoso Kenny Burrell. Back At The Chicken Shack was one of the most important recordings to create a special hybrid of improvisational music steeped in blues yet layered with an undeniable lyrical sense of purpose and righteous swing. With the latest effort from Tom Dempsey we find that magnificent blend of spontaneous in the moment groove coupled with a dynamic soulful and soul filled look at both the past and the present of what the guitar / organ trio format has yet to offer.
There is a roll reversal here as Dempsey is the obvious leader on this date but organ wiz Ron Oswanski who is also an accomplished leader in his own right provides the perfect counterpoint to the incredibly clean and precise single note runs that Dempsey rips off with ease. One of the most underrated drummers in Alvin Atkinson is the rhythm king, always in the pocket and swinging hard no matter the tempo. The Dempsey originals here are hitting that musical happy place between classic Kenny Burrell and a slightly more post modern Pat Martino but instead of banging out some familiar covers and simply doing an easy riff, Dempsey digs deep and displays a firm harmonic base and addictive lyrical presence to delight those that felt this sound was perhaps locked away in the jazz witness protection program. "Ted's Groove" and "Saucy" could be easily mistaken for lost tunes from fifty years ago but instead can pass for standards patiently waiting in the on deck circle. The covers of "One Hundred Ways" and the classic Lee Morgan tune "Ceora" are each built on not only the traditions of their time but on the personal experiences of Dempsey which is key to his establishing his own foothold in modern jazz. There is a very simple conceptual basis for this recording, feeling good. If you don't feel good after experiencing Saucy then hang tight, you should be receiving your autopsy report shortly.
Tom Dempsey is the real deal and has put together not only a release but an ensemble that should be around for a long time. This is the land of rhythm and groove. Better still, this is groove squared. An absolute winner!
Tracks: One Hundred Ways; Bock To Bock; Saucy; Ted's Groove; Bridge Over Troubled Water; Always Around; My Secret Love; Ceora; The Big Bailout; Pat-a-tat-tat.
Personnel: Tom Dempsey: Guitar; Ron Oswanski: Organ; Alvin Atkinson: Drums.