Lou Donaldson Quartet
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
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.
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.
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.
Donaldson: alto saxophone;
Tsuruga: Hammond B3 organ;