2. You and I
4. Good Times
6. I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)
7. Little M
8. Bleeker Street Theme
Mike LeDonne - Piano
Eric Alexander - Tenor sax
Jeremy Pelt - Trumpet
John Webber - Bass
Joe Farnsworth - Drums.
I know Mike LeDonne as an
organist and have praised him in that role
(see my 2006 MusicWeb review of his album
On Fire). So it is a bit of surprise
to find him on this album as a pianist, leading
a quintet at New York's Smoke club last year.
In fact he's as proficient on the piano as
he is at the Hammond organ, with the same
sort of manual dexterity and unwavering swing.
He mixes extremely complex fingering with
simpler passages, and he is well supported
by his four colleagues. Tenorist Eric Alexander
is as thrillingly daring as one expects, and
some of his adventurous spirit seems to have
rubbed off on trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, although
Jeremy can be erratic as well as daring. But
the quintet blends comfortably together, making
the most of the classic trumpet-tenor-rhythm
Jazz Messengers line-up.
The repertoire is a stimulating
mix of jazz standards with originals (including
three compositions by Mike LeDonne and one
from Jeremy Pelt) and the unexpected version
of Stevie Wonder's You and I. The non-originals
are freshened up with imaginative treatments.
For example, Manteca begins slower
than usual before speeding into up-tempo.
You and I starts at a slow lope but
LeDonne ups the tempo halfway through his
long piano solo. And the pianist gives I
Got It Bad a reflective Debussyesque feeling.
Of Mike LeDonne's original
compositions, Encounter is a bustling
piece based on the chord sequence of Love
for Sale; Hands is a beboppish
number dedicated to pianist Harold Mabern;
and Little M was written for Mike's
four-year-old daughter Mary, who likes the
sort of riffs which underlie the melody. On
this track, Jeremy Pelt's muted trumpet conjures
up comparisons with Dizzy Gillespie.
The recording captures the
excitement of a live club date without losing
any recording quality. Nice!