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Mike LeDonne: The Heavy Hitters

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Mike LeDonne: The Heavy Hitters
There was a period back in the middle years of the 20th Century and beyond when All-Star Groups were quite common, including the Buck Clayton All-Stars, Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars, and Gene Harris and the Phillip Morris Superband among several other similar aggregations. In today's musical environment, this kind of coming together of high profile musicians is exceedingly rare, primarily driven by cost issues, although availability of the musicians is also a limiting factor. Pianist & organist Mike LeDonne was not daunted by this challenge and asked five of his favorite players to join him in this adventure.

So, on May 8th & 9th 2022, the band gathered together at the Van Gelder Recording Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, under the guidance of engineer Maureen Sickler, to put together this session of original compositions, six of which were penned by LeDonne and three by tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. This soulful swinging stuff is anchored in the tradition of Blue Note Records. Opening with "Hub" which recalls trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, the blazing trumpet of Jeremy Pelt sets the pace for what follows, as each of the players enlivens the track with their spirited solos . With "Silverdust," LeDonne acknowledges pianist Horace Silver as his composition is replete with a recognizable funky Silver feeling and blues-influenced structure. LeDonne is a crisp pianist, and the soloists Pelt, Alexander and alto saxophonist Vincent Herring all show an expressive flexibility and texture awareness which keeps the number bustling along.

The first of Alexander's compositions is "Big Richard" which he wrote for his father who passed away in 2017. In this heartfelt ballad, Alexander switches to alto saxophone backed by the rhythm section. As a showcase, he demonstrates a strong and uncluttered style built on a strong lyrical footing. Following is "Chainsaw," a long form blues which benefits from the addition of guitarist Rale Micic whose opening salvo adds some grit to the number. The band hustles along like a humming engine running on earthy textures.

Returning to the LeDonne compositions, "Cedar Land" is a contrafact over the chords to Cedar Walton's composition "Holy Land." In this slashing bop-infused piece, LeDonne's savvy and technically nimble piano leads the way to give Pelt, Alexander and Herring the opportunity to show they are virtuosos with lyrical sensibilities. Not to be outdone, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington exchange bright ideas with an uncluttered sense of style. This release is a consistently inventive session from a blue ribbon sextet.

Track Listing

Hub; New Day; Silverdust; Una Dia es un Dia; Big Richard; Chainsaw; This Is Something New; Cedar Land; Bluesit.

Personnel

Eric Alexander
saxophone, tenor
Mike LeDonne
organ, Hammond B3
Jeremy Pelt
trumpet
Vincent Herring
saxophone
Rale Micic
guitar

Album information

Title: The Heavy Hitters | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Cellar Records


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