The Tom Ferguson Trio: Say When (2002)
Piano trio Jazz as it should be played, with intelligence and brio, by Tom Ferguson and his empathetic teammates, bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Steve Houghton. For Ferguson, known primarily as an accompanist and educator, the debut is as long overdue as it is welcome, and we can thank TNC Records for coaxing the sixty (or seventy?)–something artist into a studio. After retiring in 1981 from his position as director of Jazz Studies at Arizona State University, Ferguson, a past president of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE), moved to Las Vegas where he worked steadily as pianist–accompanist–conductor for Joe Williams, Sarah Vaughan, Keely Smith, Frank Sinatra, Marlena Shaw and others, and was “house pianist” for the Queens Hotel’s Monday Night Jazz series, broadcast weekly on National Public Radio. He brings all of that experience to bear on Say When, empowering every song with an ample measure of awareness and passion, swinging like a kite in a whirlwind and contributing three of the album’s most bewitching numbers, “Gentle Waltz,” “Say When” and “Trude’s Tune.” Ferguson’s style is best described as “contemporary melodic” (think Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Pete Jolly and so on), and his spontaneous impressions are free–flowing and always pleasing to the ear. He has a blue chip back–up crew in Warrington, a sixteen–year veteran of the bustling L.A. Jazz scene, and Houghton, a University of North Texas alum who was Woody Herman’s drummer of choice at age twenty and since then has performed with a who’s who of prominent Jazz artists at home and abroad. The three are quite at home in every setting, from Johnny Mandel’s swinging “El Cajon,” Alex North’s haunting theme from the movie Spartacus and Jerry Bock / Sheldon Harnick’s poignant “Sunrise Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof to Yusef Lateef’s playful “’Teef,” Chick Corea’s gossamer “Windows,” the standards “I Remember You” and “Never Let Me Go” and last but not least, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” whose gospel–inflected introductory passage serves as a prelude to Ferguson’s Jazz–centered commentary. Ferguson, we’re told (in TNC’s typically xx liner notes), is often referred to by his colleagues as “Dr. Tom,” to which we would respond that, even though grievously late in surfacing, Say When is, for piano trio fans, exactly what the Dr. ordered.
Track Listing: El Cajon; Spartacus; Sunrise, Sunset; My Melancholy Baby; Gentle Waltz; What a Friend We Have in Jesus; Say When; Windows; Trude
Personnel: Tom Ferguson, piano; Tom Warrington, bass; Steve Houghton, drums.