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Lou Donaldson


Lou Donaldson: “Blues Walk”

Blues Walk (Lou Donaldson tune, found on the album with the same name). Recorded at NYC Town Hall in February 22, 1985.

Lou_Donaldson_2Lou Donaldson checking out a Mike LeDonne solo

Lou Donaldson (born November 1, 1926) is a jazz alto saxophonist. He was born in BadinNorth Carolina. 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.

Donaldson attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro in the early 1940’s. 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 there. 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 subsequently 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,” 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.

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

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.

Donaldson has recorded in the bophard bop, and soul jazz genres. For many years his pianist was Herman Foster. He was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame on October 11, 2012.

Discography – As Leader

399px-Lou_DonaldsonDonaldson with Dr. Lonnie Smith (organ). Photo by Tom Beetz


  • 1994: The Righteous Reed! The Best of Poppa Lou
  • 1996: The Best of Lou Donaldson, Vol. 2 The Blue Note Years.
  • 1998: Blue Breakbeats

As sideman

With Gene Ammons

With Clifford Brown

With Milt Jackson

With Thelonious Monk

With Miles Davis

With Art Blakey

With Jimmy Smith

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