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RealTracks Artist Bio: Mike LeDonne


Child prodigy Mike LeDonne was already a seasoned musician when he arrived in New York upon his graduation from the New England Conservatory. Over the next ten years, he travelled back and forth to Europe, spent two years as the house pianist at Jimmy Ryan′s, toured for two years with the Benny Goodman sextet, and played with many of the biggest names in Jazz including Panama Francis and the Savoy Sultans, Roy Eldridge, Papa Jo Jones, Vic Dickenson, Buddy Tate, Al Grey, Ruby Braff, the Art Farmer-Clifford Jordan Quintet, Grady Tate, James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Turrentine, Charles McPherson, Sonny Rollins, Ernestine Anderson, Annie Ross, Etta Jones, and Benny Golson.

In 1988 he began an 11-year engagement with vibraphone master Milt Jackson′s Quartet, eventually becoming music director for the group. That same year he began recording on the Criss Cross label, debuting with the post-bop album Bout Time, and recorded several albums for the label throughout the early and mid-′90s before switching to the Double Time label in 1998. He has been playing and recording with Benny Golson since 1997, and his recordings have received 4-star reviews and won many Jazz awards. Mike LeDonne remains among the best pianists on the New York Jazz scene today and has been praised by such Jazz luminaries as Oscar Peterson, who singled him out as one of his favorite pianists. But Mike has also had a lifelong love affair with the Hammond B-3, an instrument that he says "has the soul built right in."

His father, a Jazz guitarist and music store owner, bought him a repo′d B-3 when he was fourteen, and Mike recalls many teenage sessions in his basement with the neighbourhood kids dancing outside. Many years later, he rediscovered the B-3 after sitting in with Jack McDuff′s band. At McDuff′s urging he began performing on the B-3, with a style reminiscent of Jimmy Smith and Charles Earland. A three-year gig at the Showman′s Jazz Club in Harlem was followed in 2000 by a regular Tuesday night slot with his A-team quartet at the famous Smoke Jazz Club. The group released a CD, Smokin Out Loud, on the Savant label in 2004, followed by a live recording at the club, On Fire, in 2008. In 2010 they released The Groover, also on the Savant label. Mike continues to play concerts and clubs around the world.

As an educator, Mike is the co-author of Jim Snidero′s Jazz Conception for Piano and Piano Comping books and was on the faculty at the Juilliard School of Music for four years from 2002 to 2006.

Mike LeDonne′s web site is at http://mikeledonne.net/

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Mike LeDonne plays these RealTracks:

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