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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mike LeDonne: I Love Music

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The uncommonly talented Mike LeDonne continues his transition from piano to Hammond B3, if that is what one may call it, with yet another superb album, the suitably named I Love Music. And while using the organ throughout is a good idea, it is but the first of two, as whenever LeDonne schedules a recording session he's almost sure to invite his friend and colleague, the stellar tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, a decision that is bound to please almost any listener. As a matter of record, Alexander has been a member of LeDonne's “Groover Quartet" for more than fourteen years, ...

INTERVIEWS

Mike LeDonne: Where There’s Smoke

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Mike LeDonne has more than made his mark in jazz over the years, on both piano and organ. One of the New York jazz scene's premier instrumentalists, he's long been a favorite of fellow musicians. “He is incredible," said the late Oscar Peterson, who once described how he would rush to hear LeDonne play every night on a jazz-cruise gig that featured both musicians on the bill. First known mainly for his piano work, LeDonne has increased his profile as an organ player considerably, to the point where it may be eclipsing his reputation as a pianist. His hugely popular ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mike LeDonne: Keep the Faith

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Connecticut-born / New York-based Mike LeDonne, who divides his time these days between piano and organ, has begun to record more frequently on the Hammond B3, especially with his suitably named Groover Quartet which, according to Owen Cordle's liner notes to Keep the Faith, has been together now for more than a decade. And that's a good thing, as these gentlemen certainly know how to groove, and do so with abandon on an album recorded roughly a year after the quartet's well-received The Groover (Savant 2100, 2010). The organ trio has, of course, been a staple of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mike LeDonne: The Groover

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So who knew that Mike LeDonne is actually a Jazz organist cleverly disguised as a pianist? Well, for starters, the folks who've been coming to see him perform regularly at Smoke, the New York City nightclub where he's been the house organist for more than a decade. As it turns out, LeDonne's not a garden-variety organist but an earnest Groover in the image of his main role model, the late Charles Earland. It's no accident that LeDonne has enlarged his trio (guitarist Peter Bernstein, drummer Joe Farnsworth) for this studio date by inviting tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander to sit in, ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Mike LeDonne: The Groover

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Mike LeDonne The Groover Savant Records 2010

What kind of music “grooves" exactly? Look no further. Hammond B3 organist Mike LeDonne teams with a group of accomplished musicians to put together an album that simply grooves hard all the way to the final chord. Reminiscent of Jimmy Smith and Charles Earland, LeDonne plays with conviction and soulfulness on an album that sounds more like a jam session than a studio release. From the first few bars, it is clear that the casting of this album is impeccable. Guitarist Peter Bernstein's ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mike LeDonne: FiveLive

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How suitable that FiveLive should have been recorded at the New York City nightspot Smoke, as pianist Mike LeDonne's fiery quintet smokes from fore and aft and port to starboard throughout this pleasurable concert date. Of course, it's hard not to burn with trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander manning the front line while long-term teammates bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth provide the rhythmic power that drives the engine.

LeDonne, as splendid a composer as he is a soloist and accompanist, wrote three of the album's eight selections to complement Stevie Wonder's “You and I," Dizzy ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mike LeDonne: FiveLive

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Man, where the heck was I on Oct. 19th-20th 2007? I can't recall offhand my exact whereabouts, but it doesn't matter because I certainly wasn't present at the popular Upper West Side jazz haunt Smoke to experience the excellent sets that resulted in pianist Mike LeDonne's new live release FiveLive. LeDonne, who holds down a weekly gig at Smoke as the leader of a Hammond B-3 organ-driven groove session, delivers an extremely satisfying and eclectic hard bop experience with this record, one of the best live releases of the year so far. Joined by four of New York's ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mike LeDonne: On Fire

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The organ combo, a time-tested format, can stick to your ribs like a good meal. Organist Mike LeDonne, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Joe Farnsworth together are a tight working band, displaying all the qualities that make this formation classic and still relevant on their second Savant release, On Fire. LeDonne, best known for his stint in the late Milt Jackson's group as its pianist/musical director, has spent the past several years making the Hammond B-3 organ a focal point in his arsenal. For a long time now, he's been a featured organist ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

On Fire; Estate

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Mike LeDonne On Fire Savant 2006 Grant Stewart Estate Video Arts Music 2006

Mike LeDonne has been leading his own quartet at Smoke every Tuesday night for the past six years. On Hammond organ, he swings hard and fires up the audience on this live recording along with regulars Eric Alexander (tenor), Peter Bernstein (guitar) and Joe Farnsworth (drums). Their cohesive approach lights fires of the imagination, as the organ combo ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Eric Alexander & Mike LeDonne: Dead Center & Smokin' Out Loud

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Too often jazz criticism's unquenchable thirst for sweeping innovation results in the failure to acknowledge inventive music like that found on these two excellent discs.

Eric Alexander Dead Center HighNote Records

Eric Alexander is one of the jazz tradition's strongest proponents, possessing an inviting sound and style that can be proudly called classic. On Dead Center he forges straight ahead with a satisfying program of standards and seldom heard original compositions by jazz masters, joined by the excellent rhythm section of veteran pianist Harold Mabern, stalwart bassist John Webber and ubiquitous drummer Joe Farnsworth. The muscular ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mike LeDonne: Bags Groove (A Tribute to Milt Jackson)

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Bags...in all his glory...

Intermediate-sized jazz bands have always been interesting. Miles Davis' 1949 Birth of the Cool Nonette set the stage for all “little-big" bands. Pianist Mike LeDonne's tribute to Milt Jackson, Bags Groove, is performed in this same vein. Ledonne assembles a swinging little octet that effectively takes Jackson's better known compositions and pieces associated with him on a little highway driving. Everything is urbane and intelligent here, much in the same spirit of the great vibraphonist himself. These are well-behaved performances that do not dramatically re-harmonize anything. The songs are rendered lovingly and with great respect while ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mike LeDonne: Bags Groove

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The survival of jazz as a living art form depends on the transmission of essential performance elements from one generation to the next, with the proviso that youth eventually contribute something new to the tradition rather than simply stay in place. Heeding all aspects of this process,Bags Groove, Mike LeDonne’s homage to the late Milt Jackson, is not your run-of-the-mill tribute record. A youthful veteran conversant in a number of jazz styles, LeDonne spent several years in the last of Jackson’s working bands. Utilizing seven of his former employer’s compositions and one standard, the pianist’s arrangements for an octet honor ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mike LeDonne: Then and Now

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Throughout the history of jazz there have been a sizable number of minor poets who have contributed greatly to the richness of the music in all its styles and genres. Such pianistic talents as Herbie Nichols and Elmo Hope, to name just two, added much to the jazz legacy without gaining much popular appeal in the process. This neglect of talent is still a very viable reality today, with so many well-schooled players fighting for what is and has always been a rather limited market. A bit older than such name players as Mulgrew Miller and Geoff Keezer, but younger ...



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