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Tom Dempsey: Saucy

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Since the format first ascended, the standard organ trio has held the keyboardist up as the star; despite the great guitar-organ hookups throughout jazz history, most guitarists in B3 combos provide essential support more than they enjoy the spotlight. Saucy is guitarist Tom Dempsey’s album though, and organist Ron Oswanski, while never out of reach, spends much of it comping and anchoring (with drummer Alvin Atkinson), stepping up only when called upon. That isn’t to diminish Oswanski’s contribution, however: He’s got groove and heart to spare, and when he does peel out a solo it’s consistently rich. But it’s Dempsey who defines the pace and tone; his lead lines are crisp and sparkling, his note choices surprising and brainy. He’s nastily funky on “The Big Bailout,” Booker T.-soulful on Buddy Montgomery’s “Bock to Bock” and especially impressive in a balladic setting-his acoustic work on the original “Always Around,” for instance, is impeccable.

Originally Published