All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 (or more) and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help

434

Lou Donaldson Quartet at Birdland

Budd Kopman By
Published:
Sign in to view read count
Lou Donaldson Quartet
Birdland
New York, NY
Saturday, February 3, 2007
Lou Donaldson, now eighty years old, and his group performed a wonderful straight-ahead set ("no fusion, no confusion ) before an adoring crowd. Birdland, being in the center of the theater district, can attract a lot of tourists, especially on the weekend. A performer must not only be able to play, but must also entertain and connect with the crowd. Donaldson does this easily, and surrounds himself with top-notch players who know his style.

The instrumentation of the group, and indeed much of the set, was very much the same as his last gig at Birdland. Johnston returned, with Tsuruga on organ replacing Dr. Lonnie Smith and Ector on drums replacing Tainaka. But the vibe was the same: you know what you are getting, and Donaldson & Co. delivered.

Donaldson makes no bones about his roots and his style. He introduced "Bye, Bye Blackbird by talking about Miles Davis, "when he used to play jazz" and a tune called "Fast and Freaky" (a remake of "Fine and Dandy") as "music you needed to practice to be able to play."

The last time, Lonnie Smith, whose smile lights up the room and who has a very strong musical personality, shared solo honors with Johnston. Tsuruga, who also has a wonderful smile and a very happy stage presence, did not play quite as much but was in the pocket every second of the set, enjoying herself. It is clear that she would be quite capable of leading her own band while taking the audience along with her.

Ector, like Tainaka before him, got in a terrific drum solo, but more importantly had tons of groove. "Alligator Boogaloo" sailed, and the faster, straight bebop tunes were pushed exactly right.

Johnston, while not having the most ebullient stage presence, nevertheless killed with a mixture of supreme chops and superb musicianship. Taking most of the solo time after Donaldson introduced the tune and played a bit, Johnston was all over the instrument, providing the needed wow technically while always being tasteful.

Frank Wess happened to be in the house, and Donaldson kidded with him that Wess was even older than he. Introducing the last tune, a short "Cherokee" during his patois with Wess, he said, "I play it almost everyday and when I cannot play this, I am going to hang it up." Calling out a very fast tempo, the familiar bebop war horse started out with the band in stop time, and then Donaldson played alone, flying through the changes and showing that he has still got it.

Good times, great playing, terrific set.

Personnel: Lou Donaldson: alto saxophone; Randy Johnston: guitar; Akiko Tsuruga: Hammond B3 organ; Vincent Ector: drums.


Shop For Jazz

My Blue Note Obsession
Catching Up With
CD/LP/Track Review
Interviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
[no cover]
Eight Classic Albums
Matchless Recordings
2012
buy
Lou Takes Off
Lou Takes Off
Blue Note Records
2009
buy
Here 'Tis
Here 'Tis
Blue Note Records
2008
buy
Lush Life
Lush Life
Blue Note Records
2008
buy
Lush Life
Lush Life
Blue Note Records
2007
buy
[no cover]
Possum Head +...
Columbia
2007
buy
Freddie Hubbard Freddie Hubbard
trumpet
Jimmy Smith Jimmy Smith
organ, Hammond B3
Gene Harris Gene Harris
piano
Grant Green Grant Green
guitar
Houston Person Houston Person
sax, tenor
Hank Mobley Hank Mobley
sax, tenor
Hank Crawford Hank Crawford
sax, alto

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.