Tom Dempsey is soon releasing Saucy, one of the finest guitar releases for the year. Check out his web site at www.tomdempseymusic.com. Tom was gracious enough to field a few questions.
In a previous chat you mentioned a feeling of fun specifically referencing the classic Jimmy Smith record Back at the Chicken Shack. How did this feeling translate over to the new release?
T.D. - "Those records, that sound, that feeling I carry with me everywhere I go. With or without the guitar. That music embodies a level of sophistication, integrity, honesty, humility, positivity, humanity, raw expression and an intent on bringing a good feeling to the world that is palpable. That's always what I want my music to be about. I think that is what this CD is all about. Taking much of what I love about music at its core and making a statement about it. Music is so big, so special and broad that it is difficult to make a recording that encapsulates all of any person's total musical vision. But this recording is certainly a representation of a certain core of what resonates within me as a musician. The original compositions are based on people, events, and impacts that have influenced me as a person and as a musician. The other material also have that same level of influence on my musical journey which is why I chose them."
Some influences you mention are Wes Montgomery and Pat Martino...Ronnie Ben Hur once told me sounding like the masters is hard but harder still is having the confidence to find your own voice while using the masters as building blocks. You make this look easy. What's your secret?
T.D. - "Thank you for your kind words about this. To me sound is everything. It's your identity. It's your vibe. It's what makes you distinctive in a crowd of similar people. All of my musical decisions are always based on sound. That is in the end what matters. Does it sound right? I pursue that ideal in all of my pursuits and that is what guides me in all the musical decisions I make. After all it was the sound of music that drew me in initially."
Saucy has that classic live studio jam vibe. The trio is made up of individual leaders in their own right. How was this synergy created?
T.D. -"I have worked with Ron and Alvin in a variety of situations over many years. Separately and together. So I know their musical synergy together with me as a trio as well as their synergy with me in other situation. As you stated they are also great leaders of their own groups. In their ensembles they have a different sound that they are going for and are successful in achieving. Both Ron and Alvin's most recent recordings are really incredible. If I were to break it down into three concrete things I love about their playing it would be that they are great listeners, they want to serve whatever the musical vision being presented, and in all of this they will bring their unique identity to the music. Who could ask for more!"
What's the toughest part about being a guitarist in the jazz mecca of the universe?
Playing the guitar well. : )
In all seriousness that is the toughest part. But that would be true wherever I lived. The greatest part of living in the jazz mecca of the universe is that I get to hear so much great music and get inspired on a daily basis by so many great men and women who play the guitar as well as other instruments. To live in this village of musical artistry is a blessing that I am aware of. It constantly feeds my soul and I hope the lessons I learn along the way help me to grow to a greater connection with the music and this instrument."
We've touched on some influences but are there any players from other genres you listen to?
T.D. -"Guitarists - Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, Jim Hall, George Benson, Pat Martino, Johnny Smith, Tal Farlow, Barney Kessell, George Van Epps, Pat Metheny, John Abercrombie, John Scofield
I've also had some great teachers including Ted Dunbar, Rodney Jones, and Jack Wilkins. Jack might say that I never studied with him but that's an inside joke. I have been and continue to study his approach to this day as well as all of the people listed above. Early on I had some great teachers as well including Phil Hayes and Tim Schumacher."
What's up next?
T.D. - "I have several new recordings I'm working on developing. First I plan to get this trio back into the studio before too long. The second project I have is a continuation from a joint led project with Tim Ferguson that includes Joel Frahm and Eliot Zigmund. We released "Beautiful Friendship" in 2012 and we are looking to build on this. I also have a trio project in the works with bass and drums. More on that to come. I hope to have one of these new projects out in the fall of 2014."