Thursday, October 06, 2011

Mike LeDonne - Keep the Faith (Savant Records, 2011)

Organist and pianist Mike LeDonne (excellent interview here) has proven himself in a number of mainstream jazz situations, both as a leader and as a sideman. On this occasion he sticks to the Hammond B-3 Organ, accompanied by a fine coterie of musicians: Eric Alexander on tenor saxophone, Peter Bernstein on guitar and Joe Farnsworth on drums. Subtitled "The Groover Quartet" on the album cover, this certainly lays down the path that these musicians chose for this album. The chose quite wisely too, LeDonne's swirling organ and nimble bass pedals are matched by Bernstein's tasteful accents, Farnsworth's subtle timekeeping and Alexander's lustful, brawny saxophone. Drawing inspiration from the great organ units of the past like those led by Jimmy Smith, Larry Young and Brother Jack McDuff, the group gets off to a flying start on the fast paced performances, "The Backstabbers" and "Keep the Faith" before throttling back a bit for the medium boil "Big John," presumably a tribute to the great organist Big John Patton. Drifting off into the pop-jazz crossover medium, they cover the Michael Jackson RandB song "The Way You Make Me Feel" and the haunting ballad "Someday We'll be Free." Moving back into their grooving state, they make their most emphatic statement of the album, a blasting piece of uptempo fun called "Scratchin'" which features excellent organ and tenor saxophone. The whole album is played quite well and will be a treat for fans of organ based jazz. There are excellent solos throughout the music, but it is the groups compatibility and their ability to work together toward and ego-less common ground that is most noticeable. Keep the Faith -

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