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Mike Ledonne, Pianist
Pianist Mike LeDonne, born in Bridgeport Connecticut in 1956, was raised in his parent's music store and by the age of 10 his father, a jazz guitarist, began booking him on gigs. At age 21, Mike graduated from New England Conservatory and moved to New York City.
In 1981, he left to travel to the UK with Panama Francis and the Savoy Sultans. On returning, he began a two-year stint as the house pianist at Jimmy Ryan's, then one of New York's oldest jazz clubs. It was there that he came under the influence of and played with many old masters such as Roy Eldridge, Papa Jo Jones and Vic Dickenson. He spent 1982-1983 with the Benny Goodman sextet and went on to play with Buddy Tate, Al Grey, Ruby Braff and many others.
In 1988 he started playing with the Milt Jackson Quartet; Milt recorded Mike's compositions and arrangements and selected him as the band's musical director. In the fall of 1992, Mike was chosen to be part of a group of top young musicians (Ryan Kisor, Joshua Redman, Jesse Davis, Christian McBride, and Lewis Nash) for the Phillip Morris Superband World Tour. Around this time, Mike toured with the Newport All-Stars in lineups that also featured Harry "Sweets" Edison and Clark Terry. Mike has been playing and recording with Benny Golson since 1997. He has also been leading trios which have included Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb, Billy Hart, Pete LaRoca and Louis Hayes.
Along with his many recordings as a sideman, he has five CDs on Criss Cross Jazz and three on Double Time Records, featuring music artists such as Tom Harrell, Gary Smulyan, Dennis Irwin, Kenny Washington, Steve Nelson, Peter Bernstein, Peter Washington, Mickey Roker, Eric Alexander, Jim Rotondi, and Joe Farnsworth. Mike is the co-author of Jim Snidero's Jazz Conception for Piano and Piano Comping books, on Advance Music. In 2002 Mike joined the faculty at the Juilliard School of Music. He has won praise not only from critics but from master musicians: the late Oscar Peterson picked him as one of his favorite pianists.