I’ve long been a fan of organist Mike LeDonne. I began listening to jazz in the early 1970s, collecting all types of 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 today cook just right. Mike is an exception. [Photo of Mike LeDonne above courtesy of MikeLeDonne.com]
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 soul-jazz organ combo sound of the period mentioned above. Mike gets it and knows how the music felt when Prestige pioneered the genre 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 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 this album was from 1969 or ’70. 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 well 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 (again with a Charles Earland feel) and A Lot of Living to Do from Bye 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 LeDonne and The Groover Quartet is a national treasure. If you dig the Prestige organ-combo sound, do yourself a favor and just buy this album. A must own.
JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Mike LeDonne and the Groover Quartet’s That Feelin’ (Savant) here.
JazzWax clip: Here’s the album’s title track…