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CD Review Mike LeDonne

Mike LeDonne - On Fire

Savant Records
Reviewed By Scott Homewood

One of the best things to come out of the B-3 renaissance of the late '80's was the emergence of a whole new crop of burners to go along with all of the legends still firing up the keys. Though many are mere derivatives of legends like Jimmy Smith, Charles Earland, and Jimmy McGriff there are a few who manage to bring something original to the table. Among those are Joey DeFrancesco, Larry Goldings and this young artist, Mike LeDonne. Lest you think I am wrong for including him in such heady company, I suggest you take the time to listen to his recordings and then get back to me. I am especially sure you will feel the same way I do after checking out this new album by LeDonne. It is, simply put, a scorcher.
LeDonne, born in 1956, started his music career the same way as most of the great organ players: as a piano player. In fact, LeDonne achieved his first prominent gig by joining the Milt Jackson Quintet on piano. It is because of this high profile gig and the fact that his first solo releases were all piano based that LeDonne is still much better known as a pianist than an organist. That he has of late spent more time creating organ-based albums instead no doubt makes the Hammond hipster crowd salivate. And not only is LeDonne a master of the soul groove, but he also excels at plain old hard-bop as well, which is sure to make those who still feel like the organ is the redheaded stepchild of jazz more at home with his work. Truth is, LeDonne has the ability and the intelligence to make perfect use of both keyboards to great effect much like Goldings and is still able to make his music swing, a quality Goldings sometimes lacks.
And live, LeDonne cooks even harder. Recorded at the nightclub Smoke in New York City, LeDonne and his band Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Peter Bernstein (guitar) and Joe Farnsworth (drums) cook at a high heat throughout, even when they slow things down. Highlights are a beautiful "Prayer for Mary," which LeDonne wrote about his child who has a rare medical condition and the soul standard "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" which provides a solid backdrop of chord changes for the band to blow on.Throughout this album LeDonne shows himself as a force to be reckoned with in the world of jazz.
This album will become a bonafide fave of anyone into the Hammond groove-style jazz sub-genre. Not only are the performances inventive and compelling, but they also swing and will almost compel you to dance across the room while listening to it. This is a great album.


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