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, as have guitarist Peter Bernstein
and drummer Joe Farnsworth
who comprise the group's exemplary rhythm section. Clearly, LeDonne and his comrades share some history together, and LeDonne has even served as a sideman on seven of Alexander's albums.
Save for the tenor's imposing presence (he never designs a solo that is less than admirable), the album hews closely to the organ trio format pioneered by the legendary Jimmy Smith
and his successors. As such, the blues is of course ever-present, if not explicit (as in "Blues for Gene," "Blues for Ball" or "The World Is a Ghetto"), then invariably hovering nearby, as each of these gentlemen is well-versed in the genre and makes it his basic home, even when blowing on more straight-ahead themes such as "I Love Music" or the standard "Put on a Happy Face." Milt Jackson
composed the irrepressible "Blues for Gene," McCoy Tyner
the animated "Blues for Ball." A pair of songs by Stevie Wonder
, "Do I Do" and "I Love Every Little Thing About You," while not expressly the blues, emulate the music's supernal spirit and temperament so closely that they may as well be.
"Happy Face," drawn from the Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie
and arranged by LeDonne to honor his disabled daughter and indeed all children born with disabilities (he's the founder of the non-profit "Disability Pride New York City"), is taken at a more leisurely pace than usual, underscoring engaging statements by LeDonne, Alexander and Bernstein, each of whom is squarely in the pocket on every number. Farnsworth, besides keeping unerring time, fashions a vigorous solo on "Do I Do." "Ghetto" is a pleasant surprise (half a dozen writers are listed), a charming tune on which everyone has something perceptive to say. That is, in fact, the order of the day, as LeDonne and the others prove once more that organ trios (plus one) are unequivocally salubrious and relevant.
Blues for Gene; I Love Every Little Thing About You; I Love Music; Put on a Happy Face; Blues for Ball; The World Is a Ghetto; Do I Do.
Mike LeDonne: Hammond B3 organ; Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Joe Farnsworth: drums.