James Demeny, Chicago-based jazz musician, educator, and tap dancer, has a distinctive musical voice that is all his own. Through the medium of tap dance, he explores 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 his tap shoes, James plays melodies, improvises over song forms, and replaces the drummer in his ensembles. 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 his craft as a true percussionist and improvisor, playing in a way that contributes an often unheard, vibrant texture to the jazz idiom. His jazz ensemble, James Demeny & Friends, includes instrumentalists and vocalists alike, with James and his tap shoes taking 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 his BA in Musical Theatre and a minor in Dance Education, James has cemented himself in the Chicago jazz scene, and is shaping his own sound. James has also expanded his work as not only a dance educator, but a music educator as well. Rather than choreographing routines for his students, his private lessons and classes focus on improvisation, music theory, creating melody through movement, and inspiring and encouraging his students to foster their own artistic voice. While James continues his exploration as a jazz tap dancer, he also works as a theatre director, actor, vocalist, educator, and so much more.
Frequenting Chicago venues such as Fulton Street Collective, Epiphany Center for the Arts, Elastic Arts, Palmhouse 619, Rojo Gusano, and much more, James Demeny and his Wonderful Friends create unforgettable musical experiences that both celebrate and challenge the genres of jazz and tap dance alike.