Mike LeDonne, whenever he is not touring, has held down a Hammond B-3 gig at New York’s intimate jazz club Smoke for many years. Eric Alexander is a part of that group when he is in town, as is drummer Joe Farnsworth. LeDonne is also a top rate pianist, with quite a few CDs proving that fact. So when Savant decided to record LeDonne live, most of the parts of a successful equation where already in place. Savant added hot trumpeter, Jeremy Pelt, to the lineup and FiveLive was born. With a can’t-miss super group of musicians and good acoustics provided by engineer Paul Stache, and a new club Steinway, LeDonne’s late October 2007 two-night recorded engagement is a winner.
The opening track, Encounter, a LeDonne original, has long been in Mike’s repertoire - but normally done without horns, here benefits from Pelt’s blazing solo and Alexander’s boppish tenor. Farnsworth drives the band hard. Stevie Wonder’s You and I is soulfully done. Mike’s solo, softly backed by the horns, makes this ballad shine. Hands, dedicated to Harold Mabern, veteran piano virtuoso, and mentor to many of the latest New York-based Criss Cross, Savant, High Note, and Sharp 9 label regulars, swings like a classic Blue Note take. I especially liked Joe Farnsworth stick work on this track.
Pelt’s contribution, Good Times, has a sweet groove and Jeremy’s muted solo as well as Webber’s concise but spot-on bass solo gets a spirited audience reaction. Other memorable moments are provided by Little M, dedicated to Mike’s daughter Mary, which has a great horn blend and Bleeker Street Theme, a Cedar Walton tune which is used to close Mike’s shows at Smoke. It has a blues groove that aptly describes FiveLive’s strengths - super live sound, great arrangements, beautiful piano accompaniment and a superior front line horn duo. It’s a pleasure to recommend this CD.