Lou Donaldson: The Complete Blue Note Lou Donaldson Sessions 1957-1960 (2002)
A soul survivor in every sense of the term, this alto saxophonist is one of the few remaining jazz artists who made a major impact on the jazz community via an extensive run with producer Alfred Lion and the Blue Note label (Horace Silver being another Blue Note legend that comes to mind). From his first recordings for the label with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, it was clear that Lou Donaldson put melody and sound at a premium, coming up with an amalgam that combined the creamy smoothness of Johnny Hodges with the quicksilver bop inflections of Charlie Parker.
Over the course of some 20 albums that Donaldson would cut for Blue Note beginning with his first sessions in 1953, you can trace the course of popular jazz styles, from bop inflected quintets to soul jazz organ combos. The majority of this new six disc set covers the type of bebop fare that is the core of Donaldson's musical persona and much of this material has been available previously on compact disc, although there are a few items that could only be found previously on pricey Japanese imports.
For the record, the albums included herein are Wailing with Lou, Swing and Soul, Lou Takes Off, Blues Walk, LD + 3, The Time Is Right, Sunny Side Up, Light-Foot, Gravy Train, and Midnight Sun.
Seven of the original sessions feature Donaldson in stripped down quartet formats, with conga player Ray Barretto added on occasion. Pianist Herman Foster is a mainstay on several of these dates and he shares a strong affinity with our leading man, especially on the albums Swing and Soul and Light-Foot. Of course, the cream of the crop in this category has to be Blues Walk, a certifiable Blue Note gem with bop ditties such as 'Move' and 'Callin' All Cats' mixing beautifully with lush ballad as found on 'The Masquerade Is Over' and 'Autumn Nocturne.' Never before available in the U.S. on disc, the transcendent L.D. + 3 should be considered the sleeper of these quartet/quintet sides, with Gene Harris and the Three Sounds helping to cast a bluish hue that finds Donaldson at his most sublime. In fact, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to suggest that this session alone is worth the price of admission.
The rest of the set finds Donaldson working with larger groups, starting with 1957's Lou Takes Off. Strictly a blowing session, the four extended performances allow Donald Byrd, Curtis Fuller, and Donaldson to stretch out at length, with the rhythm section of Sonny Clark, George Joyner, and Art Taylor booting things along at a medium tempo for the most part. For Wailing With Lou, The Time Is Right, and Sunny Side Up, things revert to a quintet format that places trumpet and alto as the lead voices. The latter two albums are excellent Blue Note dates of the period that make the most of pianist Horace Parlan's bluesy grass roots approach. Plus, trumpeters Blue Mitchell and Bill Hardman make perfect foils to Donaldson in that each has a lyrical style that meshes beautifully with altoist's own melodic muse.
Closing this durable set and serving as a signpost of groovier things to come, namely the organ combo records that Donaldson would launch into beginning with The Natural Soul, 1960's Midnight Sun and the following year's Gravy Train, wrap up this set in a funky vein with Barretto (and Alec Dorsey on Gravy Train ) back to add a little percussive spice. Pieces like 'Dog Walk,' 'Twist Time,' and 'Gravy Train' are modern blues numbers with just a touch of soul and a flavor that would make them jukebox classics at the timetheir crossover appeal was very strong.
In typical Mosaic fashion, this set is housed in a 12 x 12 inch box (although the company now is not fastening the top and bottom sections of the box; the top simply slips on top of the bottom half). Along with the 24-bit sound in this package, a 16-page booklet includes original session photographs by Francis Wolff and commentary by Bob Blumenthal. All recordings are available solely through Mosaic Records: 35 Melrose Place; Stamford, CT 06902; (203) 327-7111.
DISC ONE: 1. Sputnik (C) 10:02 (Lou Donaldson), 2. Dewey Square (C) 7:15 (CharlieParker), 3. Strollin' In (C) 14:35 (Lou Donaldson), 4. Groovin' High (C) 6:22 (Dizzy Gillespie), 5. Three Little Words (F) 6:16 (B. Kalmar-H. Ruby), 6. Smooth Groove (F) 5:48 (Lou Donaldson), 7. Just Friends (F) 5:09 (S. Lewis-J. Klenner), 8. Blue Moon (F) 3:01 (R. Rodgers-L. Hart), 9. Jump Up (F) 6:30 (Lou Donaldson), 10. Don't Take Your Love From Me (F) 5:47 (Harry Nemo), 11. Confirmation (F) 5:32 (Charlie Parker)
DISC TWO: 1. Dorothy (B) 5:20 (Rudy Nichols), 2. I Won't Cry Anymore (B) 4:18 (A. Frisch-F. Wise), 3. Herman's Mambo (B) 4:50 (Herman Foster), 4. Peck Time (B) 5:18 (Lou Donaldson), 5. There'll Never Be Another You (B) 5:04 (M. Gordon-H. Warren), 6. Groove Junction (B) 6:14 (Lou Donaldson), 7. Grits And Gravy (B) 6:16 (Lou Donaldson), 8. There'll Never Be Another You (mono master) (B) 7:18 (M. Gordon-H. Warren), 9. Blues Walk (D) 6:32 (Lou Donaldson), 10. Move (D) 5:51 (Denzil Best), 11. The Masquerade Is Over (D) 5:50 (H. Magidson-A. Wrubel), 12. Play, Ray (D) 5:21 (Lou Donaldson), 13. Autumn Nocturne (D) 4:52 (J. Myrow-K. Gannon), 14. Calling All Cats (D) 5:14 (Lou Donaldson)
DISC THREE: 1. Light Foot (E) 5:32 (Lou Donaldson), 2. Hog Maw (false start) (E) 1:15 3. Hog Maw (E) 6:19 (Lou Donaldson), 4. Mary Ann (E) 6:42 (unknown), 5. Green Eyes (E) 5:19 (N. Menendez-A. Utrera), 6. Walkin' By The River (E) 5:36 (U. Carlisle-R. Sour), 7. Day Dreams (E) 4:59 (Herman Foster), 8. Stella By Starlight (E) 5:49 (V. Young-N. Washington), 9. Jump Up (E) 5:03 (Lou Donaldson), 10. Mary Ann (alt tk) (E) 6:00 (unknown), 11. Stella By Starlight (alt tk) (E) 5:51 (V. Young-N. Washington), 12. Candy (I) 6:12 (David-Whitney-Kramer), 13. Midnight Sun (I) 5:45 (Hampton-Burke-Mercer), 14. Avalon (I) 5:16 (Rose-DeSylva-Jolson)
DISC FOUR: 1. The Squirrel (I) 3:34 (Tadd Dameron), 2. Si Si Safronia (I) 4:31 (Lou Donaldson), 3. Exactly Like You (I) 5:03 (D. Fields-J. McHugh), 4. Dog Walk (I) 4:23 (Lou Donaldson), 5. Gravy Train (J) 8:16 (Lou Donaldson), 6. South Of The Border (J) 5:29 (J. Kennedy-M. Carr), 7. Polka Dots And Moonbeams (J) 4:56 (J. Burke-J. Van Heusen), 8. Avalon (J) 4:13 (V. Rose-A. Jolson), 9. Candy (J) 9:15 (David-Whitney-Kramer), 10. Twist Time (J) 6:44 (Lou Donaldson), 11. Glory Of Love (J) 4:01 (Billy Hill), 12. Gravy Train (alt tk) (J) 7:33 (Lou Donaldson), 13. Glory Of Love (alt tk) (J) 3:48 (Billy Hill)
DISC FIVE: 1. Caravan (A) 5:56 (Tizol-Ellington-Mills), 2. Old Folks (A) 6:19 (W. Robinson-D. Hill,) 3. That Good Old Feeling (A) 6:49 (Lou Donaldson), 4. Move It (A) 5:54 (Lou Donaldson,) 5. There Is No Greater Love (A) 6:52 (I. Jones-M. Symes), 6. L.D.Blues (A) 5:17 (Lou Donaldson), 7. Stella By Starlight (A) 7:42 (V. Young-N. Washington), 8. L.D.Blues (fast version) (A) 4:18 (Lou Donaldson), 9. Lou's Blues (G) 5:55 (Lou Donaldson), 10. Be My Love (G) 5:42 (N. Brodszky-S. Cahn), 11. Idaho (G) 5:08 (Jesse Stone), 12. The Nearness Of You (G) 4:39 (H. Carmichael-N. Washington)
DISC SIX: 1. Mack The Knife (G) 5:15 (K. Weill-B. Brecht), 2. Crosstown Shuffle (G) 5:12 (Lou Donaldson), 3. Tangerine (G) 4:56 (V. Schertzinger-J. Mercer), 4. Blues for J.P. (H) 5:37 (Horace Parlan), 5. The Man I Love (H) 5:12 (G. Gershwin-I. Gershwin), 6. Politely (H) 5:51 (Bill Hardman), 7. It's You Or No One (H) 3:56 (J. Styne-S. Cahn), 8. The Truth (H) 5:21 (Lou Donaldson), 9. Goose Grease (H) 6:05 (Lou Donaldson), 10. Softly As In A Morning Sunrise (H) 6:33 (S. Romberg-O. Hammerstein), 11. (Way Down Upon The) Swanee River (H) 5:39 (Stephen Foster) PD
Personnel: Lou Donaldson (alto saxophone) with Herman Foster (piano), Horace Parlan (piano), Gene Harris (piano), Donald Byrd (trumpet), Bill Hardman (trumpet), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Peck Morrison (bass), Art Taylor (drums), Dave Bailey (drums), and many others