On AwwlRight!, his eighth outing at the Hammond B3 for Savant Records, pianist-turned-organist Mike LeDonne uses the same personnel and prescription that have worked so well for him in the past, guiding his sure-handed Groover Quartet through its paces in a series of bracing tunes that are all but guaranteed to quicken the mind and enliven the soul of anyone who admires and appreciates robust and well-designed contemporary jazz.
LeDonne's cozy ensemble blends collectively with an almost telepathic awareness, no doubt a result of their having been together for more than fifteen years and holding a regular Tuesday night gig at the Smoke nightclub in New York City. Even the presence of two admirable guest artists, bassist Bob Cranshaw ("AwwlRight!," "Let It Go") and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt (those two numbers plus "Hadley Joe") ruffles no feathers, as everyone adapts to their personas as though they were regular members of the group. As on albums past, LeDonne shares the front line with the outstanding tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander who always arrives ready to rumble and delivers the goods. Guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Joe Farnsworth see to it that the rhythmic foundation is strong and unwavering.
Where an organ reigns, the blues is never far behind, and such is the case here, as the quartet opens with a pair of seductive groovers, "AwwlRight!" and "Love Don't Love Nobody" before moving on to a fast-paced bop version of "Never Can Say Goodbye" and another greasy blues, this one written by LeDonne ("The Boss"). Stanley Turrentine's powerful "Let It Go" precedes LeDonne's insouciant "Mary Lou's Blues," the moderately familiar "You Are So Beautiful" (taken at a more rapid clip than usual) and another of LeDonne's bop-like compositions, the meteoric "Hadley Joe." Pelt shines here, as he does earlier on "AwwlRight!" and "Let It Go," while Farnsworth has a rare chance to brandish his chops as well.
If there is a word that best describes the Groover Quartet, that word might be dependable. Nothing too flashy, simply a good, solid performance on every track. No one falters for a moment, nor does anyone stray from the task at hand. To put it another way, the album's playing time is fifty-six minutes, and none of that time is misspent.
Awwlright!; Love Don’t Love Nobody; Never Can Say Goodbye; The Boss; Let It Go; Mary Lou’s Blues; You Are So Beautiful; Hadley Joe.
Mike LeDonne: organ; Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Joe Farnsworth: drums. Special Guests – Bob Cranshaw: bass (1, 5); Jeremy Pelt: trumpet (1, 5, 8).
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