Lou Donaldson

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Lou Donaldson
Donaldson in 2015
Donaldson in 2015
Background information
Born (1926-11-01) November 1, 1926 (age 97)
Badin, North Carolina, U.S.
  • Bandleader
  • composer
  • saxophonist
Instrument(s)Alto saxophone
Years active1952–2017

Lou Donaldson (born November 1, 1926)[1] is an American retired jazz alto saxophonist. He is best known for his soulful, bluesy approach to playing the alto saxophone, although in his formative years he was heavily influenced by Charlie Parker, as were many during the bebop era.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Donaldson in Buffalo, New York

Donaldson was born in Badin, North Carolina.[2] He attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro[3] in the early 1940s. 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.

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 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,[4] 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.[5]

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,[6] and he participated in several small groups with other prominent jazz musicians such as trumpeter Blue Mitchell, pianist Horace Silver, and drummer Art Blakey.[1] In 1953, he also recorded sessions with the trumpet virtuoso Clifford Brown, and with Philly Joe Jones. He was a member of Art Blakey's Quintet for the seminal hard bop recording sessions at Birdland on February 21, 1954, which would yield the A Night at Birdland albums for Blue Note Records.[7]

He was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame on October 11, 2012.[8] Also in 2012, he was named a NEA Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts.[9]

In 2018, he declared himself retired, having performed his final shows in 2017. On November 2, 2021, he made a public appearance at a 95th birthday tribute show at Dizzy's Club in Manhattan, New York City.[10][11]



  1. ^ a b c "Lou Donaldson | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved August 24, 2021.
  2. ^ Mathieson, Kenny (March 1, 2012). Cookin': Hard Bop and Soul Jazz 1954–65: Hard Bop and Soul Jazz 1954–65. Canongate Books. p. 210. ISBN 978-0-85786-616-5. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
  3. ^ "NEA Jazz Masters: Tribute to Lou Donaldson | NEA". Arts.gov. January 7, 2013. Retrieved May 8, 2017.
  4. ^ Massengale, Susan, Dir. "Boogie in Black and White." Chapel Hill, NC: UNC-TV, 1988.
  5. ^ Albright, Alex. "Boogie Woogie Jams Again," American Film, June 1987: 36-40.
  6. ^ "Lou Donaldson". Hardbop.tripod.com. Retrieved August 24, 2021.
  7. ^ Project, Jazz Discography. "Lou Donaldson Discography". Jazzdisco.org. Retrieved May 8, 2017.
  8. ^ "N.C. Music Hall of Fame offers tickets". The Salisbury Post. August 29, 2012. Archived from the original on December 31, 2013. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
  9. ^ "National Endowment for the Arts Announces the 2013 NEA Jazz Masters". Arts.gov. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  10. ^ Scott, Ron (November 1, 2021). "Happy Birthday Sweet Pappa Lou Donaldson | ROUTES". routes-mag.com. Retrieved August 19, 2023.
  11. ^ "Champian Hosts Lou Donaldson's 95th Birthday Party". Champian Fulton. Retrieved August 19, 2023.

External links[edit]

Signature tunes[edit]