Mike LeDonne Groover Quartet with Gospel Choir – Wonderful (ENG review)

Cellar music group – Street Date February 16th 2024
Mike LeDonne Groover Quartet with Gospel Choir

Here is an album that truly lives up to its title and brings a certain joy from the very first listen. The arrangements on this album are truly enchanting, with the Gospel Choir adding a particularly welcome touch to the overall experience. Pianist and organist Mike LeDonne’s “Wonderful” is an extraordinary exploration of the harmonious union between a gospel choir and the rich sounds of the Groover Quartet, LeDonne’s long-standing formation. The combination of jazz organ and gospel strikes a resonant and soulful chord within LeDonne’s compositions and thoughtful arrangements of popular songs. The album features an exceptional lineup of LeDonne’s longtime musical companions, including tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, guitarist Peter Bernstein, drummer Joe Farnsworth, as well as guest alto saxophonist Vincent Herring and percussionist Danny Sadownick.
Love, joy, and happiness are the order of the day on this album, which is probably hard to classify, but has all the elements to pique our interest. In reality, it takes incredible skill and a deep cultural understanding to bring such a project to life. Being a talented musician is not enough; one must possess great cultural knowledge and a genuine sense of sound production for this type of album. LeDonne’s journey as a father to Mary has been a source of inspiration for his music and activism. The creation of the Disability Pride Parade in New York, initiated by LeDonne, was born out of his love for his daughter and his desire to highlight the vibrant and diverse nature of the disabled community. “When I started, I didn’t know how to create a parade or a nonprofit organization, but thanks to Mary, I found strengths in myself that I didn’t know I had. When people thank me for my work in creating the parade, I always tell them that it wasn’t me — it was Mary,” he explains.
On this album, we find the extraordinary musicians: Mike LeDonne on Hammond B3 organ, Eric Alexander on tenor saxophone, Peter Bernstein on guitar, Joe Farnsworth on drums, Daniel Sadownick on percussion (Let Us Go & Put It Back), Vincent Herring on alto saxophone (Let Us Go), and on the Gospel Choir: Aisha de Haas, Audrey Martells, Carolyn Leonhart, Everett Bradley, Keith Anthony Fluitt, Jamie Leonhart, Jamile, JD Walter, John James, La Tanya Hall, and Tanesha Gary. It’s great to have all the names of these artists at hand since it’s rare that choristers are so well credited on an album, and they also bring undeniable artistic value to the ensemble.
The musical inspiration behind “Wonderful” stems from LeDonne’s profound love for gospel music, a genre that has deeply influenced his musical journey. LeDonne states: “For me, bringing together a gospel choir and a jazz organist felt natural – but amazingly, it had never been done before… Most of the music I love comes from the rhythms and feeling of gospel and blues, and whenever I heard gospel choirs swinging hard on a chorus or vamp, I’ve always wanted to grab hold of it. This recording was my chance to finally do that and not only add to the groove of the music, but also expand the sound of the group with the most beautiful instrument of all – the human voice.”
There is no disagreeing with Mike LeDonne on any point, especially considering how visibly dedicated he has been to this project, both in terms of his compositions and arrangements. This album fills our hearts with notes and happiness, making it an essential addition in more ways than one.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, February 8th 2024


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