Even though listed on only four tracks, organist Mike LeDonne
's superlative Groover Quartet performs on every one of the nine selections on LeDonne's admirable new recording, It's All Your Fault
and that's a good thing, as each member of the quartet (LeDonne, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander
, guitarist Peter Bernstein
, drummer Joe Farnsworth
) is an accomplished soloist and ardent team player. On the album's remaining tracks, the quartet is assimilated into LeDonne's seventeen- member big band, a taut and high-powered unit that wrests every measure of warmth and color from impressive charts by conductor Dennis Mackrel
The full band rocks and roars on the opening three numbers, echoing a bygone era when Jimmy Smith
, Richard "Groove" Holmes
, Jack McDuff
and other maestros of the Hammond played and recorded with large ensembles (a tradition upheld today by LeDonne and Joey DeFrancesco
, among others). LeDonne's voice on organ is strong yet not overwhelming, deftly shouldering the melodies while allowing the band to assert its interactive point of view, which it does with alacrity. Despite the presence in the ensemble of several world-class soloists (Steve Wilson
, Jim Snidero
, Scott Robinson
, Jon Faddis
and Joe Magnarelli
spring to mind), every solo on the album is entrusted to a member of the Groover Quartet. Is that a problem? Not when LeDonne, Bernstein, Farnsworth or Alexander is out front, as all are proven masters of their craft. Alexander is always a pleasure to hear, and any enterprise in which he takes part rises above and beyond special. His solos, which reach at times beyond post-bop to a freer, more inclusive realm, are as sharp and nimble as they are persuasiveas indeed are those by LeDonne and Bernstein.
Relishing the skirmish, LeDonne leaves no doubt that this is his gig, taking charge from the outset on the groovy "It's All Your Fault," sculpting a pair of stalwart solos around similar pronouncements by Alexander and Bernstein. "The Matador" encompasses more of the same albeit with a disparate solo order (Alexander, Bernstein, LeDonne, Farnsworth), while "Rock with You" swings as hard as its precursors, with Alexander in exemplary form and Bernstein and LeDonne as ardent and impressive as ever. The quartet takes center stage on Lionel Richie's easygoing "Still," as it does on "Biggest Part of Me" and LeDonne's bright and breezy closer, "Blues for Jed." LeDonne wrote "It's All Your Fault" and the irrepressible "Bags and Brown" for the big band, which also performs Lee Morgan
's shuffling "Party Time." With a band of this caliber, soloists as keen and masterful as these, and lively charts that invariably ensnare the ear, It's All Your Fault
is an album that fairly screams "encore!" Let's hope the interlude between this masterwork and its successor is brief.
It’s All Your Fault; Matador; Rock with You; Still; Party Time; Bags and Brown; Biggest Part
of Me; Blues for Jed.