While drummer Mike Clark and bassist Leon Lee Dorsey are the nominal leaders on Blues on Top, the album's subtitle "featuring Mike LeDonne"speaks volumes about its import and rationale. Without LeDonne at the keyboard, Clark and Dorsey would have to amplify their rhythmic talents to compensate for the absence of a secure melodic presence. Luckily, they don't have to as LeDonne is more than happy to shoulder that responsibility, leaving his teammates free to do what they do best fill in the musical gaps and keep the rhythmic thermostat on high.
LeDonne, who usually divides his time between piano and Hammond B3 organ, stays with the former on this animated session, playing with his customary verve and assurance while contributing two of the blues-heavy album's nine numbers ("Blues on Top," "Lock It in the Pocket"). He is out front and leading the way on every number save Matt Dennis & Earl Brent's wistful "Angel Eyes" and Dizzy Gillespie's groovy "Birk's Works," on which Dorsey lays down the melody and takes extended solos to complement LeDonne's impressions.
"Works" precedes the finale, a bluesy version of the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love." Other items on the tasteful menu are Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments," Ann Ronell's "Willow Weep for Me" (taken at an uncommonly brisk tempo), Duke Ellington's "C Jam Blues" and Cedar Walton's "Jacob's Ladder." While LeDonne displays his discernment and dexterity on every number, he has to work especially hard on occasion, as Dorsey and especially Clark are sometimes recorded a tad too emphatically. Well, it is their date.
Blues on Top marks the fifth album in a row on which Clark and Dorsey have formed a trio by inviting a guest artist to sit in. The others showcased pianists Manuel Valera, Harold Mabern, Michael Wolff and guitarist Greg Skaff. Having found a formula that works, they have seen no reason to revise it. That means more of the same may be forthcoming, which would not be unwelcome.
Blues on Top; Stolen Moments; Lock It in the Pocket; Willow Weep for Me; Angel Eyes; C
Jam Blues; Jacob’s Ladder; Birk’s Works; Can’t Buy Me Love.
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