Letter To Bill Evans
Street Date: March 8, 2024

Label: Jazz Avenue 1

For their seventh outing together as a close-knit, collaborative rhythm tandem, bassist Leon Lee Dorsey and drummer Mike Clark tapped pianist Michael Wolff as third man in their ongoing trio adventures. Wolff, who had previously appeared with Dorsey and Clark on 2020’s Play Sgt. Pepper, was indeed the perfect choice to complete the triumvirate on this heartfelt tribute to the late, great pianist-composer known for his contributions to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue as well as his hugely influential trio albums with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian.

Getting Wolff to fill that all-important piano chair on this project was the coup de grǎce, though he was a bit wary at first. “Leon had asked me about doing a Bill Evans album for a while, but I kept putting him off. Bill was so important to me musically and personally that I was hesitant to delve into his music. But after the pandemic, I decided I might as well do whatever music I have the opportunity to do, so the three of us recorded a couple of sessions of music and this is what we came up with.”

While the music on Letter to Bill Evans captures the spirit of the great pianist, Wolff/Clark/Dorsey take some liberties with this classic Evans material, interpreting it through their collective musical lens. From their bossa flavored rendition of “Gloria’s Step” to their all-out swinging versions of “My Romance,” Peri’s Scope,” “You and the Night and the Music” and “Nardis,” to their elegant readings of “Turn Out the Stars,” “Waltz for Debby” and “Time Remembered,” each underscored by Clark’s near-subliminal brushwork, they put their own stamp on these timeless tunes. Wolff’s nearly two-minute piano intro on “Time Remembered” is a profoundly heartfelt statement while his virtuosic double octave melody lines on “You and the Night and the Music” is an off-the-scale pianistic feat.

For swingers like “Interplay” and “You and the Night and the Music,” Clark channels his drumming hero Philly Joe Jones, who appears along Evans, bassist Percy Heath, guitarist Jim Hall and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard on the 1962 classic, Interplay. Clark’s sublime brushwork on the ballads shows another side of his playing that hasn’t often been showcased. “He is a master of the brushes and can play any time feel with them,” said Wolff. “The way he plays on ‘Turn out the Stars’ is perfect. However he may be known, Mike is a master drummer with a huge vocabulary to draw from, and he can play with his musical point of view on any style of music.”

Clark had equally high praise for his pianistic partner on Letter to Bill Evans. “The idea of using Wolff for this project was easy because he’s a huge harmonic Bill Evans head. Plus, he actually became a friend of Bill’s, so he became a likely candidate. And since we had done the Sgt. Pepper record together, it made sense. At first, he was hesitant because he didn’t want to be compared to Bill Evans. But I told him, ‘We’re not asking you to play like Bill Evans, but let’s do a heartfelt thing for him.’ So we got together and picked the tunes and talked things down. Mike changed some of the chords to fit his mentality and I had to refresh my memory of the material and kind of ended up doing my version of what I would do if I were playing with Bill Evans. I mean, I wouldn’t play it like Paul Motian, I just play it like I play it. And I really dig this record. I really listened to it critically and I like what’s going on. I think it really swings.”

These renderings of Bill Evans classics contain the kind of sparkling energy and improvisational freshness that always animates these trio sessions between Dorsey, Clark and their third partner. And this time around they hit on the perfect choice with pianist Wolff, who had internalized the music deeply decades ago. “I first heard Bill Evans when I was 15 years old,” he explained. “I was in the tenth grade at Berkeley High in Berkeley, California, when my piano teacher, Dick Whittington, brought me a record to listen to. It was Bill Evans’ Live at the Village Vanguard, and it changed my life. I became obsessed with Bill’s music from that point on and got as many albums as I could, trying to play along with them sometimes. Then I first heard Bill live at Davies Hall in San Francisco when I was 18. The only tickets available were actually on the stage, so I got to experience the concert close up. A few years later, when I was 20, I went on the road with Cal Tjader and ran into Bill a lot in various cities where we all were playing. I befriended him and, of course, hounded him for information about his music. He was very open and understanding with me. And whenever he was performing in the Bay Area, I would go hear him every night. Then after the gig I would drive him to our favorite late-night diner, Pam Pam, where we’d have an early breakfast and discuss music. He was a mentor before I knew the word ‘mentor’.”

Wolff’s connection with Clark, who is also concurrently celebrating his 50th anniversary as a member of The Headhunters, goes back to the late ‘60s on the Bay Area jazz scene. “I was house pianist with Bishop Norman Williams’ Sunday afternoon jam at a great SF club called the Both/And,” he recalled. “I was 17 years old and still in high school, I wasn’t old enough to get into most clubs then. But I had this gig and Mike came by one Sunday to sit in. And that was the beginning of a long working relationship. The chemistry that Mike Clark and I have has to do with the energy we both possess. We both play on instinct and impulsiveness. So we feed off of and inspire the other. Mike always excites me when we play together, and he challenges me. It’s a fantastic relationship, musically and personally.”

Added Clark, “We met when we were both very young. After I moved to New York in 1979 — he had moved here a year earlier than me — we both began gigging with Nat Adderley in the early ‘80s at places like Fat Tuesday and Visiones. More recently, I’ve played and recorded with Michael’s band Impure Thoughts and I also played on his 2021 recording, Live @ Vitello’s.” We also formed the Wolff & Clark Expedition and put out two recordings.”

And with A Letter to Bill Evans, their musical exploration continues.

Cantaloupe Island
Street Date: February 17, 2023

Label: Jazz Avenue 1

Renowned bassist Leon Lee Dorsey continues his prolific streak with the issue of Cantaloupe Islandthe latest album to be released on his Jazz Avenue 1 label and a continuation of his bountiful partnership with revered drummer Mike Clark. On their sixth collaboration since 2019, the stalwart rhythm section brings in virtuosic guitarist Russell Malone for an invigorating nine-track program of compositions by Horace Silver, Wes Montgomery, Prince and more.

Since joining forces four years ago, the dazzling duo of Dorsey and Clark has released a plethora of critically acclaimed albums with a different featured guest each time. Prior to the pandemic, the pair joined Greg Skaff for the all-Thelonious Monk program on Monktime. Soon after, they brought in pianist Michael Wolff for the DownBeat Editor’s pick release Plays Sgt. Pepper, before turning attention to Thank You Mr. Mabern, the last album of the late piano giant Harold Mabern. Two more releases followed including the Latin jazz rumination Freedom Jazz Dance with pianist Manuel Valera and last year’s well-received soulful meditation on the blues with pianist Mike LeDonneBlues on Top. While each release reveals a new musical side of this dynamic rhythmic pairing, their unique simpatico remains ubiquitous.

On Cantaloupe Island, Dorsey and Clark have tapped guitar great Russell Malone. “Russell Malone is an absolutely phenomenal musician,” said Dorsey. “Soulful and swinging and a brilliant improviser, he embodies the tradition and history of two of the greatest guitarists of all time, Wes Montgomery and George Benson. Russell can thrive and uplift any situation. He has had a longstanding partnership with my mentor and teacher, the legendary bassist Ron Carter. So it was a tremendous honor to have Russell on board with Mike and myself on our sixth project together. It was a dream come true and a perfect fit.”

Malone’s musical history with Ron Carter reaches back to the guitarist’s 1998 album Georgia Peach, his third as a leader, and has continued over time as a member of Carter’s Golden Striker Trio (first with pianist Mulgrew Miller, currently with pianist Donald Vega). Malone was also prominently featured on the recent PBS documentary, “Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes.” The guitarist applies his harmonic sophistication and melodic invention with soulful aplomb on this spirited trio outing.

The triumvirate opens with the title track, Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island,” with Clark alluding to his own broken rhythm syncopated patterns that he played on tour with the iconic keyboardist-composer back in the early 1970s on tunes like “Chameleon” and “Spank-a-Lee.” This is a more overtly funky take than Tony Williams’, which takes a rolling soul-jazz approach on the original recording from Hancock’s landmark 1964 Blue Note album, Empyrean Isles. A more syncopated version here, Malone’s deft jumping back and forth from urgent rhythm playing to rich chord voicings to cleanly picked, warm-toned single note lines, draws parallels to Grant Green. Clark’s loose, conversational approach behind the kit here sets the interactive tone that prevails throughout these nine tracks.

Horace Silver’s lively waltz “Barbara” (from 1975’s Silver ’n Brass on Blue Note) finds the remarkably polyrhythmic Clark tippin’ on the ride cymbal while maintaining that highly interactive pulse on the kit. Dorsey holds the fort on bass before unleashing one on his patented melodic solos as Malone supplies gentle arpeggios underneath. On an earthy, energized rendition of Silver’s “Sister Sadie” (from 1959’s Blowin’ the Blues Away on Blue Note), Malone digs in against Clark’s infectious Texas shuffle and Dorsey’s solid walking bass groove, flaunting some stinging chops that alternately signify early George Benson and latter day T-Bone Walker.

Bumpin’ on Sunset,” the Latin-tinged number from 1966’s Tequila that introduced a generation of guitar players to Wes Montgomery’s smooth octaves playing, is rendered here as an entrancing soul-jazz groover. Malone summons up some signature Wes octaves work along with deft use of chord melodies and flowing single note lines. For a change of pace, they deliver a lush, relaxed rendition of the Ray Noble ballad, “The Very Thought of You,” with Clark’s sensitive brushwork setting a subdued tone for Malone’s minor key reharmonizations on that familiar standard. Dorsey’s sparse low-end presence here adds to the meditative nature of this hauntingly beautiful interpretation.

Shifting gears, their snappy rendition of Prince’s “Thieves in the Temple” (from his 1990 soundtrack album to the film Graffiti Bridge) has drummer Clark back in a funk bag with Malone carrying Prince’s vocals on guitar. Aside from supplying some insistent, double-timed comping and rich chord melodies, Malone also delivers some wicked string-bending and adventurous single note statements on this pop number (which was also covered by Herbie Hancock on his 1996 album, The New Standard).

A waltz-time interpretation of the standard “That’s All” is underscored by Clark’s hip brushwork and Dorsey’s melodic bass lines. Malone’s chord melody work and fluid single note lines punctuate the upbeat proceedings. When Clark switches to sticks and swings in a more forceful mode, the guitarist digs in and delivers with gusto, alternately running some flowing legato lines and more deft chord melodies. Dorsey’s agile, woody-toned bass solo here is right in the harmonically inventive tradition of his former teachers and mentors Ron Carter and Richard Davis. Clark returns to brushes as the trio takes it out in elegantly swinging fashion.

Their dreamy take on the Kenny Burrell dark-hued ballad, “Listen to the Dawn,” is a veritable clinic in the art of chord melody playing by special guest Malone. They conclude the program with a laid-back, loping rendition of Wes Montgomery’s “The Thumb,” an oft-covered tune that also first appeared on Wes’ 1966 Verve debut, Tequila. Clark engages in some fantastically interactive playing here with Malone while Pittsburgh native Dorsey walks in the tradition of another legendary Pittsburgher, Ray Brown. Clark takes it down to a whisper behind Dorsey’s remarkably fluid bass solo before Malone returns to exchange vigorous eights with the drummer.

This stellar outing is yet another example of the musical synergy that Clark and Dorsey have forged together over time. And Russell, one of the classiest and most acclaimed guitarists on the jazz scene today, brings something very special to that ongoing partnership on Cantaloupe Island.

Blues On Top
Street Date: August 12, 2022

Label: Jazz Avenue 1

Veteran drummer Mike Clark and stalwart bassist Leon Lee Dorsey continue their fruitful collaboration with the release of Blues On Top in the company of renowned pianist Mike LeDonne, filling out a swinging, top tier trio. 

Blues On Top brings Clark and Dorsey together for their fifth recording with each collaboration finding the superb rhythm section augmented by a star third guest. Last year, they released Freedom Jazz Dance, a high-flying Latin jazz tribute to the great Hilton Ruíz with Cuban-born pianist Manuel Valera. Previous collaborations include Thank You Mr. Mabern (2021) with the late Mabern himself, Play Sgt. Pepper (2020) with pianist Michael Wolff and Monk Time (2019), alongside guitarist Greg Skaff. Each release demonstrates a different side of Dorsey and Clark’s deep musical simpatico, with the end result colored beautifully by their chosen featured guest. 

Mike LeDonne joins the vigorous rhythm section this time around. From the first notes of “Blues On Top”— his rousing take on Wynton Kelly’s “Blues on Purpose”— it’s evident that this session has been well paired. “Chemistry between musicians is one of those great mysteries,” said LeDonne. “It either happens or it doesn’t, in this case it did!” Magically, the March 2022 session that would become Blues On Top marked the first time these three musicians had ever played together. 

The New York-based pianist and organist is a permanent fixture on the contemporary jazz scene, having built a significant presence since the late 1980’s. A first-call sideman for jazz icons such as Milt Jackson and Benny Golson, LeDonne has made his mark on numerous recordings as a sideman and leader. Since 2003, he has steadily released well-received albums on the Savant label, including two piano trio recordings, one being 2019’s critically acclaimed Partners in Time with Christian McBride and Lewis Nash. Now with Blues On Top, LeDonne once again showcases his undeniable prowess in this intimate format. 

Similar in approach to its predecessors on the Jazz Avenue 1 label, Blues On Top is decidedly “old school” – and unapologetically so. Opener “Blues On Top,” finds Clark tipping from the outset and playing the same quick fills on his kit that bass great Paul Chambers played on Wynton Kelly’s original 1965 version of “Blues on Purpose” (either from the Verve studio album Undiluted or the live Xanadu album Blues on Purpose, recorded at the Half Note). Once they get out of that stop-time head, it’s off to the races, with Dorsey walking insistently while channeling his inner P.C. and LeDonne stretching mightily on his burning solo. “Wynton Kelly was one of my biggest idols,” said LeDonne.  The last thing I wanted to do was try to play that tune straight up because there’s no way I could ever get close to what Wynton did. So I wrote ‘Blues On Top’ with the same accents but featuring the drums.   

From that energized homage, they slide into a loping swing rendition of Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments.” A decided McCoy Tyner influence comes out on LeDonne’s cascading solo here while Dorsey offers a beautifully melodic, vocal-like bass solo. LeDonne’s “Lock It in the Pocket,” a showcase for Clark’s signature time displacement chops, finds the drummer and pianist engaged in some conversational exchanges midway through. Clark’s solo at the tag is the perfect culmination of this funky track.                     

Clark’s clever, busily swinging arrangement of “Willow Weep for Me” is a highlight. On this track, LeDonne stretches out while Clark maintains a lower flame on his intricate, Elvin Jones-influenced solo. Dorsey next carries the plaintive melody on a gentle rendition of “Angel Eyes,” underscored by Clark’s delicate brushwork, before delivering an emotive bass solo. 

The trio then tears through a brief but blazing rendition of Duke Ellington’s “C Jam Blues,” paced by Dorsey’s impeccable walking, which is right out of the Leroy Vinnegar/Israel Crosby school. LeDonne responds by channeling his inner Bud Powell-Art Tatum on this extraordinary chops showcase. “I’ve been wanting to record ‘C Jam Blues’ for, like, 40 years,” added Clark. “It was one of the first tunes I ever played that released me from the Gene Krupa/Louie Bellson path I was on in sixth grade. And as soon as I played it in junior high big band, I felt like I was a real honest-to-goodness bebopper. I even bought a beret and shades the next day.”

Their version of Cedar Walton’s dynamic and elaborate “Jacob’s Ladder” drifts into the Ahmad Jamal zone with Clark’s busily shifting undercurrent setting a sly tone, while their interpretation of Dizzy’s “Birks’ Works” is imbued with deep blue hues. Dorsey carries the familiar melody on top of Clark’s slick brushwork before breaking away for a potent solo of his own. As he explained, “I tried to get a combination of Ray Brown’s very melodic approach and a little of the fluidness of Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, just in terms of getting some less idiomatic qualities.” They close out with a rousing, shuffling version of The Beatles classic “Can’t Buy Me Love,” with energized, blues-drenched solos by Dorsey and LeDonne. It’s a fitting way to end – just three consummate musicians swinging at the highest level. 

Freedom Jazz Dance
Street Date: August 20, 2021
Label: Jazz Avenue 1

Freedom Jazz Dance is the latest release from Leon Lee Dorsey alongside drummer extraordinaire Mike Clark and the brilliant Cuban-born pianist Manuel Valera. Dedicated to the late Puerto Rican-born piano master Hilton Ruiz, whom Dorsey regularly played with in his last years (appearing on 2004’s A New York Story and 2005’s Steppin’ with T.P., the pianist’s dedication to his own mentor, Tito Puente), this collection of eight tunes highlights that same kind of bilingual musical aesthetic that Ruiz embraced throughout his amazing career.

Freedom Jazz Dance is the fourth collaboration between Dorsey and Clark for Dorsey’s Jazz Avenue 1 label. While each outing has featured a different third guest, the rhythmic hookup between Dorsey and Clark has underscored those recordings. Beginning with 2019’s Monk Time (with guitarist Greg Skaff) and continuing with 2020’s Play Sgt. Pepper (with pianist Michael Wolff) and 2021’s Thank You Mr. Mabern (featuring the late, great hard bop pianist Harold Mabern), this uncommonly flexible rhythm tandem has set a benchmark for conversational playing together.

Special guest on their fourth outing, Freedom Jazz Dance, is the astounding Manuel Valera. A free-spirited musician with command of multiple idioms, the Havana native was originally a saxophonist before switching full-time to piano after moving to New York City in 2000 to study at The New School. Valera debuted as a leader with 2004’s Forma Nueva and to date has racked up 13 albums as a leader. A chopsmeister of the highest order, in the tradition of fellow countryman Gonzalo Rubalcaba, he is as conversant in bebop as he is in Cuban son and danzón, as hip to Bud Powell as Arsenio Rodriguez. And with Dorsey and Clark holding it down, he shines on Freedom Jazz Dance.

They kick it off with an exploration of Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance.” Fueled by Clark’s loosely interactive touch, signature bounce on the snare and precision fills on the kit, this open-ended interpretation allows for some daring harmonic and rhythmic extrapolations by Valera while Dorsey holds it down with his deep-toned funky pulse. Clark brings it down behind Dorsey’s solo, playing softer but no less busy, a la Billy Higgins, as Valera alternates between Herbie-esque comping and hypnotic son montuno grooving.

Dorsey’s gentle “Baptism” is underscored by Clark’s understated yet eminently hip approach on the kit while Valera joins the conversation with flowing lyricism on the keys. Valera then brings the requisite gospel feel to Hilton Ruiz’s boogaloo, “Home Cookin’,” a tune previously recorded with a more pronounced Latin feel on the pianist’s 1987 album, Something Grand, and also on 1992’s Manhattan Mambos. Clark puts up an old school backbeat on this funky number, reminiscent of Wes Montgomery’s “Road Song,” while Valera blows with funky abandon on his solo. Midway through, it shifts to mid tempo swing mode with Clark injecting a persuasive spang-a-lang on the ride cymbal and Dorsey walking insistently, inspiring Valera to different directions in his solo, before the piece returns to the funky theme.

Dorsey’s gorgeous ballad “Until the End of Time” showcases the trio at its most sensitive, with Clark providing zen-like brushwork and Valera showing graceful restraint. Radically switching gears, they jump into an exhilarating Afro-Cuban reading of the standard “Autumn Leaves,” which again shifts midway through from 12/8 to a swinging 4/4 uptempo groove fueled by Dorsey and Clark. Valera channels his inner Bud Powell on this swing section before the tune returns to entrancing 12/8 mode, ultimately shifting back and forth between worlds on this bilingual rendering.

Dorsey’s bass carries the melody upfront on a gentle rubato exploration of Jobim’s “How Insensitive” before the trio segues to an alluring bossa nova groove at the 1:14 mark. Dorsey’s solo on this hauntingly beautiful Jobim staple is pure joy. The trio then swings with a vengeance on Ruiz’s hard driving “New Arrival” (which appeared on the pianist’s 2005 album Steppin’ with T.P. and itself is an updating of his tune “Arrival” from 1991’s Piano Man with Buster Williams and Billy Higgins.) Valera breaks out his Chick Corea-Bud Powell chops on this uptempo burner while Clark also turns in an extended show-stopping solo at the three-minute mark.

The collection closes on a relaxed note with Dorsey’s Monk-ish blues “Chillin’.” With the bassist walking in old school Leroy Vinnegar fashion and Clark laying back on the kit, Valera takes harmonic and rhythmic liberties here, alluding to Monk’s “Epistrophy” along the way.

While the individual virtuosity of Dorsey, Clark and Valera is undeniable throughout Freedom Jazz Dance, it’s their irrepressible chemistry that wins over listeners. It’s a classic example where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. 

Thank You, Mr. Mabern!
Street Date: January 20, 2021
Label: JazzAvenue

Thank You, Mr. Mabern! is the latest release by jazz bassist Leon Lee Dorsey. Recorded in July 2019, two months prior to the passing of jazz luminary Harold Mabern, the album is the swan song for the great pianist and composer, his final recording. This posthumous release is not only Dorsey’s personal farewell to Mabern, it also echoes the sentiments of jazz fans everywhere in appreciation for Mabern’s prolific 60 years. Mabern appears here in top-form and is joined by Dorsey on bass as well as former Headhunters drummer, Mike Clark.

The late Memphis-born, hard bop pianist Harold Mabern was a revered elder figure on the scene when he died on September 17, 2019 at the age of 83. His authentic soul-infused jazz and deep blues swing inherent in his Memphis roots, coupled with a profound command of the Great American Songbook, amassed the admiration of generations of musicians, including bassist-producer Leon Lee Dorsey. “I had been working with Harold in George Coleman’s octet and we did some quartet gigs together,” said Dorsey. “But, I just had not really done a recording with him. And we were kind of kicking it around last year about doing just that.”

Dorsey, whose fluid and ubiquitous bass has energized jazz masters Lionel Hampton and Art Blakey with his Jazz Messengers, as well as Grammy winning jazz vocalist Cassandra Wilson, brought this album to fruition in his Upper West Side Manhattan home studio. The bassist had already produced a string of trio recordings with Mike Clark, a veteran drummer who provides a strong, rhythmic foundation on this recording. Dorsey notes, “Mike has his own legendary status being from the Bay Area and playing with Herbie Hancock, but he also played with a lot of great blues and R&B artists in his career. He and Harold had a lot in common and they kind of fell in love with each other at the session. Harold came in playing like a 21 year old. He was on fire — Mike fueled it.

Thank You, Mr. Mabern! features masterful renditions of quintessential compositions popularized throughout Mabern’s long and illustrious career. Mabern’s singular, soul-infected sound sets the stage on the rousing opener, “Rakin’ and Scrapin’,” title track of the pianist’s 1969 Prestige album. The three establish a recognizable synergy — Dorsey’s bubbling bass line falls directly into the plump backbeat laid by Clark as Mabern cues into the harmony with his left hand, letting his right soar with refined, melodic invention.

Mabern conjures shades of McCoy Tyner with his sophisticated, strapped approach on Frank Foster’s classic jazz waltz, “Simone.” His syncopated, canorous phrasing and Clark’s tasteful, broken swing give the track a fresh, spirited feel. Dorsey demonstrates his improvisational acuity with a lyrical solo, supported beautifully by Mabern’s sensitive comping. The group shifts gears with “Bye Bye Blackbird” which features Dorsey on the melody and Clark on brushes. The trio returns to its mid-60’s soul-jazz underpinnings with a particularly soulful take on Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man.” Clark’s slyly, articulated approach here shifts back and forth between Clyde Stubblefield and Billy Higgins. 

The album concludes with an entrancing 6/8 take on Gershwin’s “Summertime”, which includes an exploratory bass solo by Dorsey and culminates in dramatic storytelling on the kit by Clark. On a rollicking version of Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin’,” Clark greases his backbeat in bacon fat while Mabern digs into his Memphis roots for a bluesy-churchy interpretation.

On a frisky, polyrhythmic rendition of “Softly As In a Morning Sunrise,” Mabern conjures up connections to his two biggest influences, Ahmad Jamal and Phineas Newborn. And on “Misty,” another bass feature for Dorsey, the pianist uncannily channels the signature style of the tune’s composer, Erroll Garner, with his steady left hand comping and delicately-placed right hand octaves. (Catch Mabern deftly quoting from “I Want to Talk About You” in his gorgeous solo.)

 The album closes on a scintillating note with a rendition of John Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice,” paced by Clark’s irrepressible swing factor, Dorsey’s indefatigable walking bass lines, and Mabern’s signature burn. “Harold was so cordial,” said bassist-entrepreneur Dorsey. “I had everything mapped out on the production side with my list of tunes and notes on each one. But I really wanted Harold to come in, have a good time, and not have to think about anything. No reading, no nothing. We just hit — it was a tremendous experience. I feel like I got the best from both of these legends in this session.”

 “Thank You, Mr. Mabern!” documents the ingenuity, openness, and soulfulness trademark to Harold Mabern’s sound. The album captures a celebration of Mabern’s influences and legacy and stands as an inimitable union of these three consummate players. The rare magic evoked is chronicled in all of its vibrancy on this album’s nine tracks.

for Letter To Bill Evans

THIERRY DE CLEMENSAT
PARIS MOVE
"...this album, while being a respectful homage down to the last note, is modernized by the trio’s playing style, which brings a touch of freshness and gentleness that allows us to better appreciate the works." Check out the full review here.

BILL MILKOWSKI
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"While the music on Letter to Bill Evans captures the spirit of the great pianist, Wolff/Clark/Dorsey take some liberties with this classic Evans material, interpreting it through their collective musical lens." Read the full review here.

CRAIG BYRD
CULTURAL ATTACHE
"It’s hard to imagine any jazz pianist not finding at least some inspiration in pianist/composer Bill Evans. Clearly pianist Wolff along with drummer Clark and bassist Dorsey are amongst those." Read the full review here.

ALLEN SCOTT
ALL THAT'S JAZZ 
Check out this podcast here.

SCOTT YANOW
LA JAZZ SCENE
"With bassist Leon Lee Dorsey and drummer Mike Clark contributing inventive yet tasteful accompaniment along with occasional solos, the trio is tight and very much a unified group." Check out the full review here.

for Cantaloupe Island

EDITOR
BASS MAGAZINE
Read the album announcement here.

ALEXA PETERS
DOWNBEAT
"When it comes to the caliber, variety and release pace of his recordings, heavyweight bassist/composer/arranger Leon Lee Dorsey isn’t messing around." Read the Indie Life feature in June 2023 issue here.

ROBIN HILTON
NPR
Listed among notable releases for All Songs Considered - New Music Friday here.

MATT MICUCCI
JAZZIZ
Featured in Editors' Choice Playlist here.

EDITOR
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Read the album announcement here.

ROBERT SHORE
JAZZWISE
“Overall, it sounds like the work of three extremely talented musicians having fun, and is likely to carry you to a happy place.” Read the complete review in the April 2023 issue of Jazzwise Magazine and online here.

RON SCHEPPER
TEXTURA
"This is an album that needs to be played loud to fully appreciate the contributions of each participant." Full review here.

GEORGE HARRIS
JAZZ WEEKLY
"Bassist Leon Lee Dorsey surrounds himself with a pair of swingers in guitarist Russell Malone and drummer Mike Clark." Read the review here.

EDITOR
BASS MUSICIAN MAGAZINE
Read the album announcement here.

GEORGE GRELLA
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD 
"Cantaloupe Island is the best...because it’s the most distinctive, the one with the clearest personal voice.” Read the review in the June 2023 issue here

TAKEHIKO TOKIWA
JAZZ LIFE
Read the review in Japanese here.

ALEXA PETERS
DOWNBEAT
Read the article here.

EDITOR
MODERN DRUMMER
Read the article here.

MATT MICUCCI
JAZZIZ
Featured in Editors' Choice Playlist here.

TOM HAUGEN
TAKE EFFECT
"The world renowned bassist Leon Lee Dorsey takes up company with Russell Malone and Mike Clark for these 9 interpretations of songs by names we all know, and the songs sound just as radiant under the vision of this trio." Check out the full review here.

for Blues on Top

CHRIS SPECTOR
MIDWEST RECORD
"A classic piano trio sound, this driving straight ahead set is a bad ass swinger that clears the dross from the palette in no time flat." Read the review here.

LEONID AUSKERN
JAZZ QUAD
Read the review in Russian here.

MICHAEL TOLAND
THE BIG TAKEOVER
"..these guys clearly enjoy their musical interaction, playing everything with a relaxed intensity." Read the review here.

JIM HYNES
MAKING A SCENE
"Rather than breaking any new ground, this trio basks in the joy of taking older material into joyously swinging territory. You’ll be tapping your foot or swaying back and forth. It’s impossible to sit still." Read the review here.

MARCO POLITTI
ELECTO MAGAZINE

Read the review in Italian here.

GEORGE GRELLA
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD 
"The best moment on the album is Dorsey’s solo statement on “Angel Eyes”, which has lovely pace, clarity and phrasing.” Read the review in the June 2023 issue here

JACK BOWERS
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Blues on Top marks the fifth album in a row on which Clark and Dorsey have formed a trio by inviting a guest artist to sit in." Read the review here.

MIKE GREENBLATT
GOLDMINE MAGAZINE
"Sometimes you just want music that makes you feel good.." Read the review here.

for Freedom Jazz Dance

RAUL DA GAMA
LATIN JAZZ NETWORK
"The compelling writing and exquisite performance throughout this session makes for an utterly memorable album." Read this review here.

 

JOHN CHACONA
"Pittsburgh-born bassist Leon Lee Dorsey has had a busy 2021." Read the review here.

JIM HYNES
MAKING A SCENE
"Bassist Leon Lee Dorsey and legendary drummer Mike Clark are a tandem that just keeps on chugging, raising curiosity as to who will be the third member to join them on their next outing." Read the review here.

SCOTT YANOW
JAZZIZ
"Freedom Jazz Dance keeps listeners’ interest throughout." Read the full review here.

PATRICK DALLONGEVILLE
PARIS-MOVE
Read the full review in French here.

VICENTE TOLEDO ROHENA
FUNDACION-NACIONAL
Read the full review in Spanish here.

DEE DEE MCNEIL
MUSICAL MEMOIRS
"Leon Dorsey’s bass walks with powerful steps and Valera’s piano moans the blues through his steady fingers." Read the full review here.

for Thank You, Mr. Mabern!

MICHAEL J. WEST
DOWNBEAT
"This is a wonderful set of trio recordings, bittersweet of course – but we’re all the better off for having this. Maybe Mabern was forgotten somewhat in the scheme of things but he’s a delightful player and you hear that here in a fitting send-off." Read this review here.

 

SIMON SWEETMAN
OFF THE TRACKS
"This is a wonderful set of trio recordings, bittersweet of course – but we’re all the better off for having this. Maybe Mabern was forgotten somewhat in the scheme of things but he’s a delightful player and you hear that here in a fitting send-off." Read this review here.

 

MIKE JURKOVIC
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
This entire project is a nod to Mr. Mabern’s 6-decade career in music.  It’s also a carefully recorded piece of jazz history with a spotlight on producer/composer/bass player, Leon Lee Dorsey. Read this review here.

STEVE FEENEY
THE ARTS FUSE
"The trio’s take underlines the point that Mabern could move in modal realms, with a force that was always closely accompanied by grace." Read this review here.

DEE DEE MCNEIL
MUSICALMEMOIRS'S BLOG
This entire project is a nod to Mr. Mabern’s 6-decade career in music.  It’s also a carefully recorded piece of jazz history with a spotlight on producer/composer/bass player, Leon Lee Dorsey. Read this review here.

 

MATT MICUCCI
JAZZIZ
"The album was recorded in July 2020, two months prior to Mabern’s passing, and features masterful renditions of quintessential compositions popularized throughout the great pianist/composer’s illustrious career." Read The Week in Jazz here and 10 Albums You Need to Know: January 2021 here

ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Thank You, Mr. Mabern! documents the ingenuity, openness, and soulfulness trademark to Harold Mabern’s sound. The album captures a celebration of Mabern’s influences and legacy and stands as an inimitable union of these three consummate players. The rare magic evoked is chronicled in all of its vibrancy on this album’s nine tracks. Read this announcement here.

 

KEVIN JOHNSON
NO TREBLE
Just under two years ago, the jazz world suffered a major blow with the loss of pianist Harold Mabern, who mastered the post-bop sound. Now his final studio recording is available thanks to bassist and band leader Leon Lee Dorsey. Read this announcement here.

 

BASS MAGAZINE
Read the full album announcement here.

WULF MULLER
WULF'S MUSIC + BLOG
"Not to be missed!!" Read this review here.

 

HECTÓR MARTIN
CANCIÓN A QUEMARROPA
El músico Leon Lee Dorsey tiene el placer de presentarnos su nuevo disco que ha salido bajo el título Thank You, Mr. Mabern! Verá a la luz el próximo 20 de enero y ha contado con la participación del legendario pianista Harold Mabern. Para leer mas presione aquí.

 

JIM HYNES
GLIDE MAGAZINE
Read the full album review here.

D. OSCAR GROOMES
O'S PLACE 

"Bassist Leon Lee Dorsey is a solid bandleader.." Read the full review in the Summer 2021 O's Place Newsletter.

YVES SPORTIS
JAZZ HOT
Read the full review in French here.