Tom Dempsey

Blues in the Slope

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Tom Dempsey makes an auspicious debut with this set of (mostly) originals. Joining the guitarist are saxophonist Kris Jensen, pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Tim Ferguson, and alternating drummers John Wilson and Scott Latzky. Dempsey opens the set with a minor-key hardbop vehicle titled "Just My Luck." His tone is dry and clean, with a staccato, pointed attack that recalls Grant Green by way of George Benson. He sticks to this sound for the mellower Latin piece "Macumba," winding quick double-time lines through the more modern harmonies. Then he kicks on the chorus effect for the funky blues riffs of "Preachin'," on which Jensen is heard for the first time. The mood changes substantially on the dark ballad "Gil"; Dempsey sets it up with an unaccompanied intro and Jensen is heard on flute. Brightness returns on the buoyant samba "A Family Affair" and remains for the band's jazz-waltz reading of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together." Dempsey then digs in on the title track, a medium minor blues, navigates the densely harmonized "Waltz In the Park," and finishes with the uptempo "Rush Hour." Throughout, Dempsey's versatility, chops, and emotive depth are on full display. Blues in the Slope is a worthy calling card for this fine guitarist, leaving one to eagerly anticipate his next outing.

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