Lou Donaldson, alto saxophone
Other musicians, TBA
Jazz critics agree that Lou Donaldson is one of the greatest alto saxophonists of all time. He began his career as a bandleader with Blue Note Records in 1952 and at age 25 had already found his trademark sound – though it would continue to sweeten over the years – earning him his famed nickname "Sweet Poppa Lou." He made a series of classic records for Blue Note in the '50s, including several recordings with Art Blakey's quintet, and takes pride in having showcased many musicians who made their first records as sidemen for him: Horace Silver, Clifford Brown, Grant Green, Blue Mitchell, Donald Byrd, Horace Parlan, and others.
After also making some excellent recordings for Cadet and Argo Records in the early '60s, Donaldson's return to Blue Note in 1967 was marked by one of his most famous recordings, Alligator Bogaloo. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by North Carolina A & T University, and a scholarship was established in his name that is awarded to the most gifted jazz musician at the university each year. He was inducted into the International Jazz Hall of Fame and is the recipient of countless other honors and awards for his outstanding contributions to jazz.
Donaldson was born in Badin, North Carolina, in 1926. His mother, a music director and concert pianist, recognized his expert ear for music and introduced him to the clarinet. After college and a stint in the Navy, several encounters with Charlie Parker inspired Donaldson to claim the saxophonist's style as his own. He moved to New York in 1950 and has been making music in the city and around the country ever since, eventually developing the soulful, bluesy style for which he is famous.
Today, at age 85, Donaldson continues to play at his very best, entertaining audiences worldwide with spirited performances that are always soulful, thoroughly swinging, and steeped in the blues. His hits on Blue Note Records are still high demand favorites and, today, he is the label's oldest musician from that notable era of jazz. Of course, he has continued to release stellar albums on other labels as well – among his latest are Caracas (1993), Sentimental Journey (1995), and Relaxing at Sea: Live on the QE2 (2000).
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