James Demeny, Chicago-based jazz musician, educator, and tap dancer, has a distinctive musical voice that is all their own. Through the medium of tap dance, they explore the relationship between sound and dance in a way that is steeped in tradition, while challenging the listeners’ ideas of what a jazz band and tap dancer can be. Using their tap shoes, James replaces the drummer in their ensembles, plays melodies, and improvises over song forms. Rather than the flashy extravagance of what one may expect from tap dance, James’ concentration is on percussive improvisation that is full of musical complexity and integrity.
Studying under Chicago drummers like Isaiah Spencer, Bob Rummage, and TJ Thompson, James has cultivated their craft as a true percussionist and improvisor, playing in a way that contributes an often unheard, vibrant texture to the jazz idiom. In their jazz ensemble, James Demeny & Friends,
James and their tap shoes take the place of the drum set. James’ ensemble plays from a vast repertoire, from video game soundtracks, to contemporary musical theatre compositions, to the Great American Songbook, and other selections of jazz and beyond.
Since graduating from Elmhurst University in 2020 with their BA in Musical Theatre and a minor in Dance Education, James has cemented themself in the Chicago jazz scene, and is shaping their own sound. James has also expanded their work as not only a dance educator, but a music educator as well. Rather than choreographing routines for their
students, James' private lessons and classes focus on improvisation, music theory, creating melody through movement, and inspiring and encouraging their students to foster their own artistic voice.
Frequenting Chicago venues such as the Hyde Park Jazz Fest, 21c Museum Hotel, Fulton Street Collective, Epiphany Center for the Arts, iO Theater, Elastic Arts, Palmhouse 619, Rojo Gusano, and much more, James Demeny and Friends create unforgettable musical experiences that both celebrate and challenge the genres of jazz and tap dance alike.