Lou Donaldson

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Lou Donaldson
Lou Donaldson 2.jpg
Lou Donaldson checking out a Mike LeDonne solo
Background information
Born (1926-11-01) November 1, 1926 (age 92)
Badin, North Carolina, U.S.
Genres Bebop, hard bop, jazz blues, soul jazz
Occupation(s) Bandleader, composer, saxophonist
Instruments Alto saxophone
Years active 1952–present
Associated acts Milt Jackson, Clifford Brown, Art Blakey, Jimmy Smith, Lonnie Smith

Lou Donaldson (born November 1, 1926) is a jazz alto saxophonist. He is best known for his soulful, bluesy approach to playing the alto saxophone, although in his formative years he was, as many were of the bebop era, heavily influenced by Charlie Parker.[1]

Life and career

Donaldson was born in Badin, North Carolina.[2] He attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro[3] in the early 1940s. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was trained at the Great Lakes bases in Chicago, where he was introduced to bop music in the lively club scene.

At the war's conclusion, he returned to Greensboro, where he worked club dates with the Rhythm Vets, a combo composed of A and T students who had served in the U.S. Navy. The band recorded the soundtrack to a musical comedy featurette, Pitch a Boogie Woogie, in Greenville, North Carolina, in the summer of 1947. The movie had a limited run at black audience theatres in 1948 but its production company, Lord-Warner Pictures, folded and never made another film. Pitch a Boogie Woogie was restored by the American Film Institute in 1985 and re-premiered on the campus of East Carolina University in Greenville the following year. Donaldson and the surviving members of the Vets performed a reunion concert after the film's showing. In the documentary made on Pitch by UNC-TV, Boogie in Black and White,[4] Donaldson and his musical cohorts recall the film's making—he originally believed that he had played clarinet on the soundtrack. A short piece of concert footage from a gig in Fayetteville, North Carolina, is included in the documentary.[5]

Donaldson's first jazz recordings were with the Charlie Singleton Orchestra in 1950[6] and then with bop emissaries Milt Jackson and Thelonious Monk in 1952,[7] and he participated in several small groups with other jazz luminaries such as trumpeter Blue Mitchell, pianist Horace Silver, and drummer Art Blakey.[1]

In 1953, he also recorded sessions with the trumpet virtuoso Clifford Brown, and Philly Joe Jones. He was a member of Art Blakey's Quintet and appeared on some of their best regarded albums, including the two albums recorded at Birdland in February 1954 Night at Birdland.[8]

Donaldson has recorded in the bop, hard bop, and soul jazz genres. For many years his pianist was Herman Foster.

Donaldson is best known now for his soulful, funky 1960s recordings that feature some of the greatest soul jazz players ever to record. These include guitarists Grant Green, Melvin Sparks, Jimmy Ponder and George Benson, organists John Patton, Billy Gardner, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Charles Earland and Leon Spencer, Jr, drummers Ben Dixon (one of the great underrated groovers), and Leo Morris/Idris Muhammad, whose work on the kit defined the funky boogaloo soul jazz sound of the late 1960s. Records such as Good Gracious! (1963, Blue Note), Musty Rusty (1965, Cadet), Alligator Bogaloo [sic], Mr. Shing-A-Ling (1967, Blue Note) and Hot Dog (1970, Blue Note), among others, are quintessential examples of the jukebox, funky, soulful 1960s jazz that came to define "rare grooves" in the soul jazz revival period of the 1990s.

He was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame on October 11, 2012.[9] Also in 2012, he was named a NEA Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, United States' highest honor in jazz music.[10]



  1. ^ a b Allmusic Biography
  2. ^ Mathieson, Kenny (2012-03-01). Cookin': Hard Bop and Soul Jazz 1954-65: Hard Bop and Soul Jazz 1954-65. Canongate Books. ISBN 9780857866165.
  3. ^ "NEA Jazz Masters: Tribute to Lou Donaldson | NEA". www.arts.gov. Retrieved 2017-05-08.
  4. ^ Massengale, Susan, Dir. "Boogie in Black and White." Chapel Hill, NC: UNC-TV, 1988.
  5. ^ Albright, Alex. "Boogie Woogie Jams Again," American Film, June 1987: 36-40.
  6. ^ Lord, Tom. "The Jazz Discography". [page needed](subscription required)
  7. ^ "The Hard Bop Homepage".
  8. ^ Project, Jazz Discography. "Lou Donaldson Discography". www.jazzdisco.org. Retrieved 2017-05-08.
  9. ^ "N.C. Music Hall of Fame offers tickets". The Salisbury Post. August 29, 2012. Archived from the original on December 31, 2013. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
  10. ^ "National Endowment for the Arts Announces the 2013 NEA Jazz Masters". Retrieved August 22, 2014.

External links

  • The Official Website for Sweet Poppa Lou DONALDSON
  • NEA Jazz Master Lou Donaldson
  • All About Jazz: Lou Donaldson
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