“This is a record that I have been looking forward to for a long time!” writes Cory Weeds, owner of Vancouver’s premiere jazz club The Cellar and venue-dedicated label Cellar Live. His excitement should not come as a surprise when it’s the Mike LeDonne Trio that has arrived on his stage. It’s no small statement that Jazz pianist Oscar Peterson has described LeDonne as “one of the most promising and talented pianists of this era.”
The album Speak captures the Trio’s terrific playing in Vancouver that night. World-renown artists John Webber (bass) and Joe Farnsorth (drums) have performed with LeDonne in various contexts for twenty years and it’s a chemistry hard to match in both talent and taste. They put on a performance marked by a mix of swing and blues, driving tempos, a range of beautifully emotive music, and memorable melodic lines.
In addition to being an incredible pianist, LeDonne is a wonderful composer, having written six of the nine compositions heard during the live performance. The first five tracks are part of Suite Mary, dedicated to his daughter Mary who was born with a very rare disability called Prader Willi syndrome. Mary is non-verbal, she doesn’t speak. The second part “Listen” is the centerpiece of the suite, a melody LeDonne used to play to help Mary calm her mood. “I would play that melody for her and she would come to the piano and just quiet down and listen to it. Then she started to hum while I would play it for her. I felt that it was our first real communication, in a way,” said LeDonne.
The Cellar, in which the Mike LeDonne Trio played, has been voted in the Top 100 Jazz Clubs Worldwide by Downbeat Magazine four times and is often compared to New York’s Village Vanguard for its ambiance and acoustics. Owner Cory started the label “Cellar Live” to capture the incredible music that was being performed on stage. I’m glad he did.
Hard swinging, straight ahead jazz deeply rooted in the piano trio tradition. The first piano trio release for LeDonne in 7 years featuring his regular working trio. Speak was recorded live at one of the World’s 100 Best Jazz Clubs.
Mike LeDonne, piano
Michael LeDonne (born 1956 in Bridgeport, Connecticut) is a jazz pianist and organist known for post-bop and hard bop. His parents ran a music store and his father was a jazz guitarist. He played with his father at gigs from the age of ten. At 21 he graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music and moved to New York City, playing with the Widespread Depression Jazz Orchestra. In 1988 he had his recording debut and joined Milt Jackson’s Quartet.
John Webber, bass
Bassist John Webber was born in 1965 in St. Louis, Missouri. By age ten, having moved to Wheaton, Illinois, he was already playing electric bass and by fifteen he had added contra bass to his musical skills. In 1987 John moved to NYC and began performing with Bill Hardman and Junior Cook.
Joe Farnsworth, drums
Joe Farnsworth is already regarded as one of the top jazz drummers in the world, but as far as he is concerned, he is just getting started.He is dedicated to the great tradition of jazz drumming as conceived by men like Max Roach, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones, Billy Higgins and Arthur Taylor and it keeps him in the practice room trying to continue and extend it.