is a versatile musician, a talent that serves him well on Just Passing Thru
, an album wherein he not only plays soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, trumpet and keyboards but also wrote all but one of the session's nine selections. This is basically a quintet with guitarist Mike Stern
added on the last three tracks, guitarist Sal DiFusco
and accordionist Joey Barbato on one each. Barbato is an especially welcome addition on the closer, "Ireland," a nod to Donahue's ancestral home, with a "Riverdance" feel and a slashing solo by Stern.
Donahue mines a number of genres from ballad to blues, shuffle to soul, Latin to funk, with generally pleasing results. The opener, "Hear My Words," moves from shuffle to samba to funk as Steve Hunt
checks in with a splendid solo on Fender Rhodes, and Donahue solos on tenor sax and trumpet. The trumpet is overdubbed on several other tracks to add depth to the front line. Donahue moves to alto sax (and trumpet) on "Living Room Blues," a laid-back groover that also features bassist Joe Santerre
and pianist Alain Mallet
. The leader's pensive soprano sax is center stage on the Roberta Flack hit, "Killing Me Softly," the only number not written by Donahue, leading to Hunt's gospel-style piano intro and some soulful alto licks by Donahue on "Just Passing Thru."
"Donny's Groove," which follows, is one of the livelier items on the menu, its breezy Latin tempo amplified by Donahue's nimble tenor sax and Mallet's electric keyboard. Then it is back to alto sax on the expressive "Man of Few Words." Stern is the lone soloist on "7- 9-65," his wailing guitar deftly underlining the tune's quirky 7/4 groove. That leaves "Railroaded," another funky outing on which Stern solos again and Donahue follows suit on soprano. sax The core group (Donahue, Santerre, Mallet, drummer Larry Finn
and percussionist Ricardo Monzon
) work well together, while Donahue's talented guests add enough variety to keep one's interest from flagging. Just Passing Thru
is by and large smooth and cordial but lacks the sort of gravitas or charisma that might have raised it well above the norm. Nevertheless, a well-drawn album that serves as a bright showcase for Donahue's sizeable talents.
Hear My Words; Living Room Blues; Killing Me Softly; Just Passing Thru; Donny’s Groove; A Man of Few Words;
7/9/65; Railroaded; Ireland