's splendid Groover Quartet has earned a cozy groove for itself, somewhere between fresh from the oven and the halcyon days of organ combos led by Jimmy Smith
, Charles Earland
, Jimmy McGriff
, Richard "Groove" Holmes
, Shirley Scott
, Don Patterson
and others. While embracing their essential groundwork on the one hand, LeDonne moves steadily forward with the other, lending a more contemporary voice to what has been a popular staple of the jazz repertoire for well over half a century.
Far from alone in this pursuit, LeDonne is aided and abetted by a trio of eloquent trend-setters: long-time colleagues Eric Alexander
on tenor sax, guitarist Peter Bernstein
and drummer Joe Farnsworth
. They are enhanced along the way by another modernist, alto saxophonist Vincent Herring
, who adds warmth and color to "I'd Never Change a Thing About You," bassist Ray Brown's piquant "Gravy Blues" and LeDonne's fast-paced salute to alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson
, "Sweet Papa Lou." Speaking of "I'd Never Change a Thing," the first of LeDonne's three original compositions, the charming wire-to-wire gallop was written for his daughter, Mary, who has multiple disabilities and for whom LeDonne founded the non-profit Disability Pride NYC.
LeDonne and Co. (sans Alexander) are at their soulful best on the lone standard, Mack Gordon / Harry Warren's "At Last," a gorgeous ballad first heard in the 1942 film Orchestra Wives.
"At Last" is followed by LeDonne's well-sculpted arrangement of the pop song "This Will Be an Everlasting Love" and the fast-moving finale, "A Lot of Livin' to Do," from the Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie.
Alexander hammers that one out of the park, a feat he duplicates on every turn at bat. The title song, another LeDonne original, is an ambling blues taken from the classic organ trio playbook with Alexander's razor-sharp tenor cutting straight to the chase.
The relaxed groove prevails on LeDonne's arrangement of "La La Means I Love You," a pop hit for the Delfonics in 1968, before giving way to the livelier cadences of trumpeter Donald Byrd
's "Fly Little Bird Fly" (another tour de force for LeDonne and Alexander). Regardless of mood or tempo, LeDonne's quartet, which has been a working group for some years now, is emphatically secure and firmly in the pocket. Farnsworth's timekeeping is unerring, Bernstein excels whether comping or soloing, and as for LeDonne and Alexander, their ardor is amplified by exceptional technique. Herring's assertive cameos are icing on an already appetizing cake.
I’d Never Change a Thing About You; That Feelin’; La La Means I Love You; Fly Little Bird Fly; Gravy Blues; Sweet Papa Lou; At Last; This Will Be an Everlasting Love; A Lot of Livin’ to Do.
Mike LeDonne: Hammond B3 organ; Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone; Vincent Herring: alto saxophone (1, 5); Peter Bernstein: guitar; Joe Farnsworth: drums.