Home » Jazz Articles » Album Review » Mike LeDonne: Wonderful!

19

Mike LeDonne: Wonderful!

By

Sign in to view read count
Mike LeDonne: Wonderful!
Organist Mike LeDonne's latest recording, Wonderful!, is a labor of love on several levels. Of course, there is love of the music and love of accomplishing something that had not been done before—teaming a gospel choir with jazz quartet. Above all else, there is love for LeDonne's wife, Margaret, and daughter Mary who is disabled but, as LeDonne says, is nonetheless "truly wonderful."

LeDonne wrote the album's title song for Mary, wherein he compares her to "a river in the desert" and "a mighty ship at sea" and declares that "you are wonderful to me." It's a sentiment that resurfaces on one of the session's trio of instrumental numbers, "Make Someone Happy," written by Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green for the Broadway musical Do Re Mi. The choir sings on the other five, starting with the light-hearted opener, "Let Us Go," and including, along with "Wonderful," the fast-moving "Put It Back," soulful "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" and Paul Simon's well-trodden "Bridge Over Troubled Water," taken at a bright and groovy tempo.

Having never arranged for a choir, gospel or otherwise, LeDonne called on friend and singer Carolyn Leonhart to assemble and lead the eleven-member group, a task she readily agreed to and performed admirably. The choir is impressive and, when it is absent, LeDonne can always rely on his splendid Groover Quartet to lead the charge. With tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander in his usual persuasive form, guitarist Peter Bernstein soloing and comping with assurance and drummer Joe Farnsworth replicating a metronome, the quartet leaves little to be desired. Alto saxophonist Vincent Herring sits in—but doesn't solo—on "Let Us Go."

What is most puzzling, given that the album was recorded at the renowned Van Gelder Studio in New Jersey, is that the overall sound quality is by and large sub-par—and is especially unkind to the leader's Hammond organ, which sounds coarse and jagged on most numbers, lessening the listener's proneness to appreciate his artistry. While Alexander, Bernstein and Farnsworth fare relatively better, the studio does the choir no favors either, cramping its separateness and clarity. While the quartet and choir do their best to overcome that, the hindrance is nevertheless apparent and too often undermines the album's intention to please.

Track Listing

Let Us Go; Lonnie's Lament; Twinkies Organ Prelude/Wonderful; Put It Back; Bridge Over Troubled Water; Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing; Make Someone Happy; Genesis.

Personnel

Album information

Title: Wonderful! | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Cellar Music Group


Comments

Tags

Concerts


For the Love of Jazz
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

More

Unknown Rivers
Luke Stewart Silt Trio
Life Is Funny That Way
Fay Victor / Herbie Nichols SUNG
Gravity
Eternal Triangle
spi​-​raling horn
Jason Stein / Marilyn Crispell / Damon Smith /...

Popular

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.