Mike LeDonne – Partners in Time Review
By Elberton Cisnero
Mike LeDonne is best known for his work with Benny Golson. LeDonne is a jazz pianist and organist known for post-bop and hard bop styling, LeDonne has a vast discography with twenty-esque titles under his own name and a swathing of titles as a sideman. His latest offering Partners in Time brings together Christian McBride and Lewis Nash, a rhythm section that is unmatched when it comes to swing.
“Lined with a Groove” signals the start of the album with a strong musical statement from the trio. LeDonne and Nash do a call and response with McBride that is very exciting. Of course, McBride’s lines are crystal clear and in the pocket. The solo begins with LeDonne tearing up the ivories. His lines are a combination of pentatonics, chromatics and the blues all drenched in the rich jazz tradition. Nash and McBride keep the swing percolating and always pushing the energy. McBride’s solo is filled with his signature, even and clear quick passages that are framed by singable bluesy figures. The recording quality is a little harsh, the piano is slightly out of tune and it seems to have a very bright sound overall, but great playing and LeDonne, he even scats a little too!
“My Funny Valentine” is given a striking arrangement that is full of twist turns and great feels. LeDonne’s harmonic and melodic sophistication is in full force on this one. His technique is captivating as he clearly expands upon this well-known harmonic progression. It is always fun to hear how a trio like this one will approach a standard, and this version certainly has its moments of brilliance. Nash and McBride are a swinging force of nature. This is why standards are always a treat to hear along with original material in the hands of such skilled musicians.
Partners in Time is a terrific reference, as certainly Nash and McBride keep time with panache and fluidity, while LeDonne offers a supernatant ease. It also speaks to the storied career of each player and the joined collaborative effort on LeDonne’s latest offering each a partner in the overall sound. Though I have a quibble with the piano being out of tune, don’t let this dissuade you from the overall enjoyment the album has to offer.
Release Date: June 28, 2019