Mike LeDonne: It's All Your Fault


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Mike LeDonne is one funky organist. Three cups of Charles Earland, two tablespoons of Jimmy McGriff with liberal dashes of Don Patterson. Then cook. Mike's Philly sound is always groovy and driving but not overdone. That's the thing about organ albums. You have to know when it's enough, and Mike knows. The beauty of his music is that it respects tradition and drips with '70s swagger.

Mike's latest is It's All Your Fault (Savant). Recorded in February 2020, just weeks before the pandemic and lockdown kicked in, the album was released May of this year. I'm just getting to it now because I'm finally digging out. Mike is joined on tracks here by two groups—his all-star big band and his Groover Quartet.

The big band tracks are LeDonne's It's All Your Fault, Grant Green's Matador, the Michael Jackson hit Rock With You, Lee Morgan's Party Time and Mike's Bags and Brown. The Groover tracks are Lionel Richie's Still, Ambrosia's Biggest Part of Me and Mike's Blues for Jed

The Mike LeDonne Big Band features Jon Faddis, Frank Greene, Joe Magnarelli and Joshua Bruneau (tp); Mark Patterson, Steve Davis, Dion Tucker and Doug Purviance (tb); Steve Wilson and Jim Snidero (as); Eric Alexander and Scott Robinson (ts); Jason Marshall (bar); Mike LeDonne (org); Peter Bernstein (g); John Webber (b) and Joe Farnsworth (d). The Mike LeDonne Groover Quartet includes Eric Alexander (ts), Mike LeDonne (org), Peter Bernstein (g) and Joe Farnsworth (d).

Every track is a smoker that peels out and roars off. The big band arrangements by Dennis Mackrel, who also conducted, have that '70s vibe with horns playing call-and-response riffs with Mike's organ and adding soulful texture throughout. The horn solos are all first-rate as is Bernstein's guitar.

Mike's albums always take me back to the early 1970s, when solid Prestige organ dates featured tenor saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. and trumpeter Virgil Jones. This one is no exception. Mike's playing is so good and saucy, the album should have come with napkins.

JazzWax clips: Here's Rock With You...

And here's Still...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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