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Barrett Deems: Deemus

Nic Jones By

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Drummer Barrett Deems was a man with a pedigree, who took in stints with violinist Joe Venuti from 1937 to 1944, and a four-year run with trumpeter Louis Armstrong in the 1950s. The first years of the following decade found him keeping the musical company of trombonist Jack Teagarden. All of these affiliations are clues to the musical fare on Deemus, the drummer's first album under his own name—recorded in 1978 but not released by Delmark until 1997. It's great to have the recording released again, as it documents the seemingly dying art of small group swing performance.

The whole vocabulary of pre-bop jazz is on offer, spoken with just the right combination of fire and grace to make the music worthwhile. Deems was able to generate heat, even while his work remains unobtrusive. His drive on "Shine" ensures that the music is lustrous, even at a bright tempo, and it's a real treat to hear clarinetist Chuck Hedges, whose playing shows no overt influence, apart from {Benny Goodman}} in his phrasing and Edmond Hall in his instinctive ability to turn up the temperature.

Benny Goodman and Charlie Christian's "Seven Come Eleven" is both rhythmically buoyant and supple, the uplift provided in part by John DeFauw's rhythm guitar in an encapsulation of another dying art. As a guitar soloist, Bob Roberts demonstrates the influence of George Barnes, but that very reference only exemplifies the degree to which he knows his stuff.

By the same token, pianist Steve Behr shows a measure of Teddy Wilson in his work on the opening "'Deed I Do." But as with most of the influences here, it's unimportant when the music catches that element of the human spirit which takes care of convivial music making. If anything, Behr is less urbane than Wilson, and sounds particularly inspired by keeping the leader's musical company. Vibraphonist Don DeMichael evokes the spirits too, but such is the nature of his phrasing that his closest musical allegiance, at times, could be to clarinetist Pee Wee Russell.

Given that this was such a wonderful little group, the piano/bass/drums trios of "I Love Paris" and "Get Happy" are a little sad. The three men perform with such brio, though, that the exhortation of the latter title requires no effort at all.


Track Listing: Deed I Do; New Orleans; Shine; After You've Gone; Seven Come Eleven; Six Appeal; I Love Paris; Get Happy.

Personnel: Chuck Hedges: clarinet; Steve Behr: piano; Bob Roberts: lead guitar; John Defauw: rhythm guitar; Wilson McKindra: bass; Barrett Deems: drums.

Title: Deemus | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Delmark Records


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