Lou Donaldson

Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, London UK
27-10-2014

Lou Donaldson, at nearly 88 years old, is probably one of the very few US jazz musicians of his era still touring. It was a joy to hear him at Ronnie’s last night. He’s well known for his fabulously funky (and much sampled) soul jazz albums, recorded for Blue Note in the 1960s and early ’70s, which have been rediscovered by new generations (and consequently widely sampled by the likes of Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Kayne West, Dr Dre and Eminem). He’s perhaps more respected by some for his improvisational work on the early recordings of Thelonoius Monk, Clifford Brown, Horace Silver and Art Blakey (earning his bebop credentials on A Night at Birdland).

Lou Donaldson

Lou Donaldson

Donaldson introduced the set by nailing his colours to the mast and telling us “you are going to see straight ahead jazz, no fusion, no confusion” and “not Snoop Doggie Dog or 50 Cent who ain’t worth a cent!.” Playing the alto saxophone, his expressive individual tone still sounded in fine fettle accompanied by his tight band featuring Randy Johnson on guitar, Akiko Tsuruga on Hammond organ and Fukushi Tainaka on drums,.

It was a treat to hear the classic tunes Blues Walk, Alligator Boogaloo and Gravy Train. Tsuruga, in particular, appeared to be having a great time unleashing huge rushes of intensive organ cascades interspersed with nimble funky phrases, while Johnson displayed some restrained fast fluid licks. Fast and Freaky was a great vehicle for Tainaka’s entertaining percussive talents.

It’s often the case that legends of his generation, in their later years, prefer to affect a more theatrical style with humorous digressions, frequently playing as many standards as nuggets from their own back catalogue and this gig was no exception. There was a healthy dose of self-deprecating repartee and a slightly cutting remark about Miles Davis!  He also sung the blues to great effect with a suitably hoarse-voiced rasp on Whisky Drinkin’ Woman and It was a Dream

Personally I would have liked to hear a few more of Donaldson’s own classic compositions, but there were smiles all round at the end of a hugely entertaining and charming set by a charismatic jazz veteran.

Set list:
Blues Walk
Wee
What a Wonderful World
Fast and Freaky
Whisky Drinkin’ Woman
Alligator Boogaloo
Bye Bye Backbird
You’ve Changed
The Wake Up Song
Alone Together
It was a Dream
Gravy Train



Categories: Live review

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: