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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Savant SCD 2091




1. Encounter
2. You and I
3. Hands
4. Good Times
5. Manteca
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!

Tony Augarde


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