Jazz CD Reviews
Mike Ledonne Trio – Speak – Cellar Live
Published on September 2, 2013
Mike Ledonne Trio – Speak – Cellar Live CL 120212, 51:02 ****:
(Mike Ledonne – piano; John Webber – upright bass; Joe Farnsworth – drums)
In the liner notes to this Mike Ledonne Trio Cellar Live release entitled Speak, highly regarded pianist Bill Charlap offers the following assessment of the performer: “Mike Ledonne is one of my favorite pianists. An artist of great integrity and depth, he’s incapable of playing a dishonest note”. High praise indeed, but a listen to this album confirms this appraisal.
The first five tracks of this recording are all tied together as part of “Suite Mary” a story told in music and dedicated to Ledonne’s daughter Mary, who has a very rare disability called Prader Willi syndrome. All of Ledonne’s musical sensibilities are on display in the various sections where he brings each one to life. Demonstrating showy form, assured attack, and interesting turn of expression, Ledonne delivers a scintillating palette of music.
Pianist/composer James Williams wrote “What Do You Say Dr. J” for basketball legend Julius Irving and it is given a groovy downhome reading by the trio with drummer Farnsworth delivering a confident rhythmic signature and bassist Webber in full grasp of his instrument. “I Loves You, Porgy” opens with Ledonne stating the theme in soft Latin frame then picking up the pace to 4/4 time on the bridge. All in all an unusual rendition of the composition. A breakneck speed rendition of Ledonne’s composition “Blues For McCoy” which is dedicated to McCoy Tyner shows the pianist’s capability of owning the keyboard with an especially boisterous drum solo from Farnsworth. The set closes with Cedar Walton’s composition “Bleeker Street Theme”. Walton died on August 19, 2013 and was acknowledged as one of jazz’s most esteemed composers with a book of compositions that covered a panoply of styles. Ledonne’s take on the tune runs the gamut of Waltonian touches that give each piece its identity. Throughout this album, Ledonne demonstrates his profuse technique coupled with storytelling insight.
TrackList: Suite Mary Part 1: Speak; Suite Mary Part 11: Listen; Suite Mary Suite 111: Play; Suite Mary Part IV: I Will Always Love You; Suite Mary Part V: Little M; What You Say Dr.J; I Loves You, Porgy; Blues For McCoy; Bleeker Street Theme