As formidable a musical unit as anyone could imagine, even if you were building a supergroup from the ground up...
Artist: The Tom Hemby Band
10 tracks / 48:11
If you’re one of those people who simply dig great guitar playing and love to read album credits you should already know the name Tom Hemby. For the rest of you, let me put it simply: once you’ve heard Tom play you’ll have to add another name to your list of guitar heroes. An in-demand Nashville session player, songwriter, and producer, Hemby has worked with everyone from Amy Grant to Michael Omartian, BeBe and Cece Winans, Donna Summer, and Cliff Richard, to name a few. His solo albums, Chasing the Wind and In the Moment captured Hemby’s brilliance as a multi-instrumentalist and featured his blazing guitar-work, leaving fans hungry for more. At last, on Dealin’ It, we get what the Nashville club crowd has been lucky enough to experience on a regular basis - Tom Hemby in a band environment! And what a band it is! With Keith Carlock on drums, Mark Douthit on Sax, Adam Nitti bass, and Michael Whittaker on Keys this is as formidable a musical unit as anyone could imagine, even if you were building a supergroup from the ground up.
Dealin’ It features ten well-written instrumental tracks that have real melodies, often beautiful chord structures, and shifting tempos - all with plenty of breathing room for each band member to impressively strut their stuff. While the genre of jazz fusion is sometimes guilty of talented musicians jamming to forgettable, melody-less grooves, not so here. Actually, there’s more jazz than fusion on this project as well as a hearty helping of funk.
Right from track one, “Sneaky,” we’re treated to amazingly tight, funky playing by the whole band, with transitions into jazzy soloing that always stays right in the groove but is impressive enough to have you making those faces you make when the playing is so good it almost hurts. “The Big Dang Deal” continues the energy. I’m thinking Koinonia and The Fletch Wiley Band at first (how’s that for digging into the past?) but with more dynamic sound and aggressive arrangements. Tasty organ licks keep a taste of old-school in the mix and Hemby’s guitar solo starts off with an incredible wail and grows exponentially in astounding form, setting up Douthit’s stunning wah-wah inflected sax solo. Nitti’s funky bass riff starts off the next song, “Six Ways From Sunday,” the third in the opening trio of power-house tracks. The drums and bass are cooking furiously all through the piece. By the way, I could hear the basics of this one being used as one of those jazzy late-seventies sit-com themes!
“Oakwood Road” features the band in a slower, more ballad-like feel. Each player is exquisite in solo or ensemble mode. The interplay between the keys and guitar is beautiful, and Hemby’s playing near the very end of the song is breathtaking. There’s a hint of a Steely Dan vibe (always a good thing) and even a hint of the band Focus on “Wrestle With the Devil,” a performance that proves - thanks to Michael Whittaker - that synth solos can be unique, dazzling, and tastefully done! Keith Carlock’s drum breaks toward the end are phenomenal, tasty, and yet understated - how does he do it? Hemby follows up with a musical ‘selah’ with the dreamy, atmospheric minute and a-half “Free Byrd.”
“Afro Funk” is a great ensemble piece, where everyone shines - special kudos for Nitti’s beautiful bass solo and Carlock’s monster breaks at the end. “The Street” is a bluesy steamer of a song with a very clean, jazzy piano solo, some soulful sax, and a very deep, lyrical guitar solo. “Another Lonely Moon” is a beautiful, dreamy ballad with the sax up-front stating the melody and some of that great old-school organ again from Whittaker.
“Sidewayz” starts explosively with Carlock’s drums and continues at a furious pace. Punchy horn parts and some killer bass/piano riffs punctuate the song while synth, guitar, sax and more of those amazing drum fills bring the album to a ‘crazy’ close.
Look for Dealin’ It on all download and streaming media. Don’t delay.
It would be hard to over-state the quality of these players. Obviously, words can’t do it - you simply have to hear what these men do. The project was produced by Tom Hemby with Mark Hornsby, who pretty much allowed the music to speak for itself. The mix is clean and a delight to listen to. Tom Hemby wrote all of the songs except for “Oakwood Road” (Adam Nitti) and “Afro Funk” (Mike Whittaker). This is the Tom Hemby project many of us have been waiting for. What more could you want? Glad you asked.
Hey, Tom - you are recording this band live, aren’t you?
You can see concert photography by Bert Saraco (who would love to someday photograph Hemby in action) at the link below.
4 ½ TOCKS.