Mike LeDonne: That Feelin'

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I've long been a secret fan of organist Mike Le Donne. I say secret because he doesn't know (yet). I began listening to jazz in the early 1970s by collecting exciting organ combo albums. I still love Hammondites Don Patterson, Shirley Scott, Leon Spencer Jr., Charles Earland and Brother Jack McDuff. Add Sonny Stitt, Gene Ammons, Stanley Turrentine or Grover Washington Jr. to the session and I'm all in. To this day, the sound knocks me out if done right. And not many now do it right. Mike is an exception.

Mike knows all of this music inside and out. He's marinated in it. His most recent album, That Feelin', says it all about the soulful organ combo sound of the period mentioned above. Mike gets it and inches as close as any organist I've heard today to the feeling that Prestige pioneered with monster producers such as Bob Porter, Ozzie Cadena and Cal Lampley.

Joining Mike on That Feelin' are tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Joe Farnsworth, with special guest alto saxophonist Vincent Herring. Mike lays the grease and gravy on heavy and funky, and the band behind him is right there with him. If I gave you a blindfold test, you'd guess that this album was perhaps from 1969. It's like a Hammond sundae. No matter where you slide your spoon, you wind up with a mix of great stuff.

The first two tracks, I'd Never Change a Thing About You and That Feelin', are both by Mike and they're off the rails. Absolutely phenomenal. Then Mike and the band take on the Delfonics' La La Means I Love You, with a swinging Charles Earland feel. Eric Alexander plays exceptionally strong here and throughout.

Next, the quartet digs into Donald Byrd's Fly Little Bird Fly (at a blistering tempo), Ray Brown's Gravy Blues (a funky blues), Mike's Sweet Papa Lou (a tribute to alto saxophonist  and hard-bop and soul-jazz pioneer Lou Donaldson), the ballad At Last (reminiscent of Patterson's playing on Boss Tenors in Orbit), Natalie Cole's This Will Be an Everlasting Love (with a Charles Earland feel) and A Lot of Living to Do from By e Bye Birdie as covered by Sammy Davis Jr. (a barnstormer).

I can't say enough about this album. It's soulful, respectful and dragon hot. Vincent Herring adds zest to Never Change a Thing About You, Gravy Blues and Sweet Papa Lou. Peter Bernstein throughout plays with a sharp Grant Green touch while Joe Farnsworth drives the show. Mike Le Donne and The Groover Quartet is a national treasure. If you dig the Prestige organ scene, do yourself a favor and just buy this album. A must own.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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