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Mike LeDonne: Wonderful!


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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.


Album information

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




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