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Mike LeDonne: Night Song

Mike LeDonne has been a journeyman laborer in the New York City jazz trenches for 20 years. He has worked with many important players (Milt Jackson, Benny Golson, Joshua Redman), and has recorded 10 albums under his own name.

LeDonne is a deeply middle-of-the-road mainstream-modern pianist who lacks any signature stylistic manifestations that would give his work a clearly identifiable personality. But he is highly proficient and swings at all tempos. He also has taste. Night Song is a quality project throughout–from the detailed liner notes by Bill Milkowski to the clear sound from Rudy Van Gelder’s 24-bit digital recording to LeDonne’s choice of sidemen, who elevate this recording from a solid trio date to something graceful and quick.

Ron Carter is not just a big-name guest. He has played occasional gigs with LeDonne for five years, and their hookup is real. Carter’s bass lines are sinuous and complex and intuitive, and they make all of LeDonne’s piano ideas more interesting. Drummer Joe Farnsworth displays unceasing intelligent motivational energy. He just rolls the band out ahead of himself.

The best piece is a well-disguised “Alone Together” as a flat-out burner. The limitations of LeDonne’s music are revealed by “After the Rain.” He turns John Coltrane’s fervent inner search into just another sprightly swinger.

Originally Published