Keep the Faithby Mike LeDonne & the Groover Quartet
Mike LeDonne is among the top organists of his generation and this CD combines his interest in soul hits and soul-jazz, in addition to his own compositions. He assembled a top group for the session, including tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, guitarist Peter Bernstein, and frequent collaborator Joe Farnsworth on drums, which he calls the Groover Quartet. LeDonne begins with a snappy, driving treatment of "The Backstabbers" (which earned the O'Jays a gold record in the early '70s), with potent solos by Alexander, Bernstein, and the leader, with Farnsworth's inspired drumming pushing them. The musical conversation between LeDonne and Alexander turns Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" into a viable jazz vehicle, with Bernstein's hip choruses being an added bonus. It seems likely that Alexander played Charles Earland's "Keep the Faith" during his tenure with the late organist; this interpretation percolates with energy as an uptempo cooker, with everyone on fire throughout the performance. Horace Silver's funky "Sweet Sweetie Dee" isn't one of his better-known works, but the quartet makes the most of its spacious, hip setting. LeDonne's originals are equally compelling. Bernstein's intricate playing is a highlight of the fast-paced "Scratchin'," while the laid-back groover "Big John" (a tribute to the late organist John Patton) casts a mellow mood. This potent session is easily one of Mike LeDonne's best recordings.
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