Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet,
Beautiful Friendship
(Planet Arts, 2012)

Guitarist Tom Dempsey and bassist Tim Ferguson have been working together for close to 20 years, long enough to develop a strong affinity for each other's playing. On this album, they come across like the veteran married couple who finish each other's sentences. Aided by Eliot Ferguson on drums and Joel Frahm on tenor and alto sax, they play a program of swinging light bop, accessible but not boring, mixing classic tunes with originals. Dempsey's guitar is sports-car quick and sure, taking the curves well, holding its speed and never descending into the chaos of a wreckage. On bass, Ferguson keeps solid time, plays imaginative lines and solos beautifully. Zigmund's drums are never intrusive and Frahm offers solid sax, although he occasionally sounds as if he stepped over from a different album altogether. Still, the resulting blend is solid.

What's beautiful is the octave playing, where one instrument doubles another an octave higher. In all, this is a solid album.

I especially like the ballads. Vernon Duke's "Autumn in New York" gets a fine treatment, with Frahm's sax taking on a breathy tone and Dempsey's guitar playing tasteful fills behind it. Frahm gets to show off his alto prowess on Ferguson's tune, "Last Summer," while Dempsey trades leads with him.

Beautiful Friendship is a good, solid contribution to mainstream jazz; there's nothing avant-garde or ground-breaking about it, but it more than accomplishes its purpose, which its to present about an hour of strong and well-played jazz.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

12 January 2013

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