Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet
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Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet

New York City, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | INDIE | AFM

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Jazz World




"Beautiful Friendship Review"

Smart repertoire choices, reciprocal ease among the players and memorable solo and ensemble moments help catapult this mainstream-modern quartet session led by guitarist Tom Dempsey and bassist Tim Ferguson above the quotidian norm. The finely meshed interaction is a result of familiarity mixed with novelty, as the co-leaders have worked frequently with both drummer Eliot Zigmund and saxophonist Joel Frahm, who had not played with each other before this date. Zigmund is a catalyst for the elegant, airy ensemble textures. His fluid yet crisp cymbal time, accents and lithe brushwork, combined with an ability to interact with nuanced empathy to changing musical textures, keep the tracks tight and focused. On Randy Weston’s “Little Niles” his nimble drum patterns complement the seductive weave of tenor and guitar
around the theme and join with Ferguson’s bass in sustaining the lilting African 6/8 feel. Zigmund’s sprightly, syncopated beats and paradiddles spark “Cakewalk”, a Ferguson concoction redolent of New
Orleans second-line rhythms, with prancing soprano sax and dancing double lines from guitar.

Guitar versions of Thelonious Monk have become almost de rigueur of late, but “Coming On the Hudson” deserves an honored place on the list. Dempsey eschews his usual fluid style for one of the closest
approximations of Monk’s plunking dissonances, abrupt hesitations and quirky rushes you’ll ever hear. His a cappella intro channels solo Monk and his comping in the ensemble and behind Frahm continues
à la Monk, right down to the odd spacing and atonal plucks. He asserts his own style on other album highlights, including an atmospheric “Autumn in New York” and the exhilaratingly quick, start-stop time title
track. And don’t miss the collaborative counterpoint and tandem guitar-tenor sax soloing on “It’s True”, a contrafact on the changes of “There Is No Greater Love”, or Ferguson’s “Last Summer”, its echoes of “It Might As Well Be Spring” also recalling the sound of the ‘50s Johnny Smith Quintet with Stan Getz. - New York Jazz Record

"Live Performance Review"

Dempsey and Ferguson Cornelia Street Café

Written by Cassie Newman
Less is more, a popular catchphrase, is certainly justified by Tom Dempsey and Tim Ferguson, the duo who played Sunday night downstairs at the Cornelia Street Café. With Dempsey on guitar and Ferguson on bass, the musicians face the challenge of creating a full, multi-faceted musical performance with only two string instruments.

Although the music would lend itself very well to the addition of a horn, a piano or some drums, Dempsey and Ferguson have such a connection with each other, and such a handle on their instruments, that any additional musical parts were not missed. In fact, on previous occasions and recordings, they have included such instruments with great success, but more isn’t necessarily better, it’s just different. Perhaps that is the crux of the issue, more instruments, meaning a trio or a quartet, is really just more of the same. After all, most jazz bands consist of some combination of familiar instruments; it is much less common to see just a guitar and a bass. That is the first reason that Dempsey and Ferguson stand out as jazz musicians.

The next reason, and perhaps the more important one, is the simplicity and humanity with which they play their respective instruments. It may have been partly influenced by the small, personal space at the Cornelia Street Café, but their performance had an intimacy to it that was absolutely riveting. Everyone’s attention was locked on the musicians, and there seemed to be a calculated effort on all parts to make as little excess noise as possible.

In fact, it might be said that the only conversation happening within the quiet space was between the guitar and the bass. Dempsey and Ferguson instill so much expression into their musical parts that the instruments seem to take on a life and voice of their own. At times, there is a very subtle call and response between the two, almost as if they are finishing each other’s sentences. At other times, they play together, effortlessly switching roles as the leader with the melody line and as the backup, supplying the harmony and the rhythm. The importance of specificity becomes clear as the duo almost mimics a rhythm line from the drums or a melody line from a piano by changing the way they use their strings. For example, in a song by Hank Jones titled “Interface”, the way Dempsey picked rapidly at the strings on the guitar sounded more like an arpeggio on the piano than the strumming of a guitar.

It is in the way his fingers (or his guitar pick, in most cases) pick at the strings that Dempsey communicates so much expression. In the song “Nascimento” by Barry Harris, Dempsey had a touch so gentle, it’s a wonder he elicited any sound from his guitar. The song itself has the quality of a lullaby, and the tenderness with which Dempsey and Ferguson played only enhanced its appeal, the music becoming sweetly hypnotic.

Ferguson’s expression comes from his propensity to bend into blue notes on the bass, sustaining them so that it sounds like a cry. As is often the case, the bass played the backup to the guitar for most of the set, repeating the same progressions underneath, and keeping tempo for, the melodic guitar line. But Ferguson still gave the bass a run for its money on multiple occasions, particularly in the jazz standard, “Stardust”by Hoagy Carmichael, when he took the improvisational liberties typically delegated to the guitar or the piano. This was also the case for the duo’s title song “What’s Going On”, the soulful classic by Marvin Gaye. The guitar played the melody, recalling Gaye’s own silky vocals, and the bass improvised around it.

The fact that Dempsey and Ferguson have made that song the title of their new album, and a signature piece in their repertoire, is further proof of the expressive and sensitive nature of the duo’s music. To convey the incredible message of Gaye’s song without using words requires a great deal of expression, and Dempsey and Ferguson have achieved this, and so much more.

- Cassie Newman

"All About Jazz What's Going On?"

CD Review:

By Michael P. Gladstone

The New York-based team of guitarist Tom Dempsey and bassist Tim Ferguson has been playing as a duo over the course of the past twenty years. It is, indeed, a shame that knowledge of the quality of this music appears to be a state secret.

Their collaborative What's Going On? provides not only a keen display of their playing ability, but quite a diverting set list. The pair opens with Hank Jones' “Interface,” then slide into Marvin Gaye's 1970s R&B hit “What's Going On?”--a tune meaningful to both musicians as an ecological warning. The traditional spiritual, “Deep River,” follows and, in turn, leads into Billy Strayhorn's “Isfahan.”

This cleverly interleaved mix of tunes is typical of an album that presents standards, jazz tunes and a few originals. There is a huge amount of music being presented and when Ferguson takes a bass solo, as he does on most of these compositions, he gets a great big woody sound from his instrument. Dempsey's role as principal melodist clearly identifies his ability to play lyrically in any context. As a contrast, Ferguson plays the melody on Hoagy Charmichael's classic “Stardust,” while Dempsey comps, Django-style. On Mal Waldron's closing “Soul Eyes,” Ferguson delivers a beautiful arco solo.

When Dempsey and Ferguson play in unison, as on the bassist's “Julie's Tabouleh,” it's yet another musical treat from this fine album.

Track Listing: Interface; What's Going On; Deep River; Isfahan; Nascimento; Tandem; First Song (For Ruth); As Spring Begins; Julie's Tabouleh; Stardust; Three And One; Soul Eyes.

Personnel: Tom Dempsey: guitar: Tim Ferguson: bass.

- All About Jazz

"Scott Yanow-Perspectives"

AMG REVIEW: On this set, co-led by guitarist Tom Dempsey and bassist Tim Ferguson, and also featuring altoist David Bixler and drummer Jeff Brillinger, original hard bop tunes are emphasized on Perspectives. The only song not from Dempsey or Ferguson is Duke Pearson's "Minor League." The music is inventive, straight-ahead (but not predictable) and swinging, with a few subtle surprises included. The musicians, based in New York, are not famous but deserve recognition since they are talented improvisers. This small-level set shows how creative the modern mainstream of jazz remains in the early 21st century. — Scott Yanow

- All Music Guide

"The Skanner-What's Going On?"

CD Review: * * * * *

Guitarist Tom Dempsey and bassist Tim Ferguson have released this superb duo recording of fine originals plus tunes written by Thad Jones, Marvin Gaye, Hoagy Carmichael, Mal Waldron and others.

It’s extremely difficult to pick a favorite tune when such material as “Isfahan,” “Stardust,” “What’s Going On,” and “Soul Eyes” are included.

Even the originals like Dempsey’s “As Spring Begins” and Ferguson’s “Julie’s Tabouleh” are unique compositions performed here in a lush and melodic manner.

Dick Bogle hosts a weekly jazz radio show from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays on KMHD 89.1 FM. He can be reached for comment at

- The Skanner

"Jazz Weekly-What's Going On"

CD Review:

Attention guitarists, this is how a recording should be put together. Spacious, lyrical, uncomplicated, yet filled with warm and embracing interplay. NYC based Tom Dempsey and bassist Tim Ferguson have been doing this kind of thing for almost twenty years; their mutual knowledge of music and each other after two decades is palpably evident on this fine release of (mostly) standards. Beautiful tunes like “Soul Eyes” and “Deep River” are given silhouette-like ambience. Sophisticated bop pieces like Hank Jones’ “Interface” and brother Thad’s “Three and One” are benefited by their jovial jousting. Selecting Marvin Gaye’s pop hit as a vehicle for improvisation was a selection of genius. Why do discs like this seem so easy, yet no one dares put them out? Look up this winner.

- George Harris

- Jazz Weekly

"Beautiful Friendship - Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet"

Some may be most attracted to this CD by the presence of consummate saxophonist Joel Frahm, but the lesser known co-leaders of this quartet, guitarist Tom Dempsey and bassist Tim Ferguson, will prove just as satisfying, not to mention the impeccable drummer Eliot Zigmund. Dempsey and Ferguson have played together for over 20 years, and individually with such artists as Kenny Barron, Roy Haynes, and Dave Brubeck (Dempsey), and Eddie Harris, George Cables, and Stefon Harris (Ferguson). Frahm is perhaps best known for his work with Brad Mehldau and Jane Monheit, while
Zigmund first made his mark with the Bill Evans Trio in the '70's and later Michel Petrucciani. While these four musicians paths have crossed previously, this is the first time they have come together as a
quartet, although their sensitive rapport belies that fact. They share an economy of style and a clarity of expression, which help to make this recording (Dempsey and Ferguson's third co-led venture) so
consistently rewarding.

Randy Weston's classic "Little Niles" is given a respectful treatment that doesn't break any new ground but is tight and polished. Frahm builds a tenor solo that culminates with intense, swirling phrases, and Dempsey's foray is concise and lucid. Ferguson's bass is steadfast throughout, while Zigmund precise drumming is relentlessly stimulating. "50-21" is a characteristically fresh and appealing Thad Jones opus. Frahm's solo wails from the start, with rapid single-note lines in the bop vernacular, as Dempsey backs him with gently struck chords. The guitarist's own improv is anything but laid back, as he takes his lyrical opening to surging heights before giving way to Ferguson's emphatic spot and the bassist's exchanges with the buoyantly tasteful Zigmund. Dempsey's "Focus Pocus" is not to be confused with Lee Morgan's "Hocus Pocus," although this riffing theme is every bit as catchy in its own way. Frahm develops it with melodic flair, as does the composer, with the theme always lurking but artfully and zestfully enhanced.

Frahm's tenor unveils the standard "Autumn in New York" with genuine feeling, supported by Dempsey's deft chords and obbligatos. Dempsey's solo is laden with lovely harmonies and possesses a
graceful arc. Frahm follows in a charged and bluesy manner reminiscent of Houston Person or Lockjaw Davis, only to turn tender once again for the reprise. Zigmund's flawless brush work is the
thread that helps make this such a classy interpretation of the Vernon Duke tune. "It's True" is credited to all four members of the quartet, and has a boppish head that Frahm and Dempsey expand upon contrapuntally. Dempsey's solo weaves sparkling extended lines, while Frahm's seems to fall somewhere between Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman in its restless journey. Ferguson's improv
has a Charlie Haden-like stalwartness and is succeeded unexpectedly by a succinct tenor/guitar exploration of "There Will Never Be Another You" that resolves neatly.

"Cakewalk" is a New Orleans parade-style romp from Ferguson that is sparked by Frahm's joyful soprano, with the bassist and Zigmund keeping an infectious rhythmic pulse. Frahm, Dempsey, and
Ferguson offer up solos that are both entertaining and adroitly constructed. "Ted's Groove" is Dempsey's tribute to guitarist Ted Dunbar, and its mellow, captivating theme finds Frahm and
Dempsey floating in unison over Ferguson's salutary accents and Zigmund's forthright, prodding patterns, complete with drum rolls. The guitarist and tenor saxophonist each inject some funk into
their unassuming statements, and their closing vamp allows Zigmund to expound uninhibitedly. The quartet's take on "Beautiful Friendship" is rhythmically forceful, as Ferguson and Zigmund maintain an urgent pace over which Dempsey and then Frahm burn brightly, the latter particularly impressing with his multi-faceted attack and tonal variety. Trades with Zigmund again vividly define the
drummer's artistry, craft, and focused passion.

Ferguson's charming ballad, "Last Summer," is warmly played by Frahm, with Dempsey delicately contributing the bridge. The guitarist's solo outlines the melody with subtle chords and a few swift
arpeggios, but Frahm submits a boisterous commentary that he seems to create as one rapturous whole. Since the CD was recorded in Union City, NJ, right on the Hudson River, Monk's "Coming on
the Hudson" makes for a fitting finale. Dempsey presents the theme in a staggering way, seasoned slightly with dissonance, before a repeat by the full quartet in a more straight ahead approach. Frahm
feasts on the harmonic possibilities in his appropriately quirky solo, with Dempsey subsequently forming a string of alluring paraphrases leading up to the short but sweet reprise. - Jazztimes Magazine - February 2013


Waltz New - Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet - Origin Records                                                       Beautiful Friendship - Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet - Planet Arts Records
What's Going On - Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Duo - Citytone Records
Perspectives - Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet - Imaginary Records



The Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet is an exciting and innovative ensemble comprised of four of New York city’s most respected jazz musicians. Playing a mix of original compositions, standards and classics from the jazz cannon, the Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet’s music is an authentic and riveting expression of the state of jazz in the 21st century.

Guitarist Tom Dempsey and bassist Tim Ferguson have collaborated on a variety of projects from duo to large ensembles for over twenty years. They have performed throughout the U.S. and Europe at many notable jazz venues and festivals and their collaboration has resulted in numerous recordings including: “Perspectives” from the Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet (Imaginary Records) and their highly acclaimed 2007 duo release, “What’s Going On?” (City Tone Records). Their latest release, "Waltz New" on Origin Records pays tribute to the music of Jim Hall.

Tom Dempsey’s reputation for hard swinging sophistication and pure musicality have made him a distinct voice in the New York jazz scene for the last twenty years. He has performed and recorded with a virtual “Who’s Who” of renowned jazz musicians including Wynton Marsalis, George Coleman, Kenny Barron, Roy Haynes, Bobby McFerrin, Paquito D’Rivera, Jack McDuff, Jim Hall and Brad Mehldau. Tim Ferguson has been providing the foundation for Jazz groups in the New York City area for many years and has performed throughout the U.S. and Europe with a wide variety of well known jazz artists including Don Friedman, George Cables, Cecil Bridgewater, Vanessa Rubin, Tony Scott, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Eddie Harris, Mel Lewis, and Valery Ponomarev among others.

This quartet also features two of Dempsey and Ferguson’s long time colleagues. Saxophonist Joel Frahm and drummer Eliot Zigmund. Frahm has established himself as one of the most exciting rising stars in the jazz scene today, performing and recording with many of today’s most noted stars including Maynard Ferguson, Betty Carter, Kenny Barron, Matt Wilson, Larry Goldings, Dewey Redman, Lee Konitz, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Pat Martino. Zigmund’s powerful and poetic voice at the drumset has propelled the bands of some of the most acclaimed artists in jazz including Bill Evans, Jim Hall and Stan Getz. Together this quartet creates a unique musical energy and brings a fresh perspective to the music.

The Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet is a dynamic group that blends world-class musicianship with a genuine commitment to sharing their music and educating audiences. Their performances demonstrate a combination of thrilling virtuosity and clarity of expression that enthralls audiences, allowing for a profound shared musical experience as the musicians lead the listener on a sonic tour of creative discovery.

"Great tunes, terrific solos and careful listening to each other. Tom Dempsey and Tim Ferguson do it all, and swing!"
                      Jim Hall
                      Jazz Guitar Legend

“Tom’s great improvisation and melodic interpretations simply sparkle and are played with wonderful groove, sometimes biting, sometimes bluesy, always on the money. "
                     Gene Bertoncini

“...inventive, straight ahead and swinging.  The Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet shows how creative the modern mainstream of jazz remains in the 21st century.”
                    Scott Yanow
                    Jazz Journalist/Author

“...straight ahead modern jazz with a bluesy soulful tinge...a vivaciousness to the music that keeps drawing attention."
                    Dale Smoak
                    Cadence Magazine

“The groove is always present and the solos are melodic.  Dempsey’s sound is clear and full."
                    Eric Elias
                    Just Jazz Guitar.