Mike LeDonne

Bags Groove: A Tribute to Milt Jackson

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On his third Double-Time release, Mike LeDonne assembles an illustrious octet in honor of one of his mentors, the late vibraphonist Milt Jackson. While the arrangements and the band are polished, there's an inspired simplicity and looseness to this date, making it one of LeDonne's best. The pianist plays brilliantly, as usual, although this album doesn't necessarily stress the piano, but rather the band texture as a whole. Enlisting two guys named Jim (Jim Snidero, alto and flute; Jim Rotondi, trumpet) and three named Steve (Steve Wilson, alto and soprano; Steve Davis, trombone; Steve Nelson, vibes), LeDonne gives these tunes a thickly and poetically harmonized treatment. (Veterans Bob Cranshaw and Mickey Roker, on bass and drums respectively, complete the lineup.) Highlights include Davis' dissonant counter-line on the hip, Latin groove "Reunion," LeDonne's cunning quote of the "Love Story" theme on "Sava Bella," and the remarkable ensemble shadings heard on the standard "Little Girl Blue." In a departure, LeDonne plays Hammond organ on the swinging "Namesake," which is a bit cluttered but quite energetic. Steve Nelson plays the melody and solos first on the closing "Bags' Groove," as is fitting on a record dedicated to bop's most influential vibraphonist.

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