Lou Donaldson Quartet: Live At The Village Vanguard By the time he started his latest weeklong run at the New York club, the alto saxophonist had just turned 84. He's been based in New York for 60-odd years, during which time he's become a jazz legend.

Lou Donaldson Quartet. John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com hide caption

toggle caption
John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com

Lou Donaldson Quartet.

John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com

Live At The Village Vanguard

Lou Donaldson QuartetWBGO

Lou Donaldson Quartet in Concert at the Village Vanguard - 11/03/2010

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/130859830/131055358" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

By the time he started his latest weeklong run at the Village Vanguard, alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson was 84. He'd been based in New York for 60-odd years, during which time he became a jazz legend — the kind who made albums that are still remembered today, who recorded lines memorable enough to be sampled years later, who toured the country's back rooms back when a jazz musician could post up for two weeks at a time in, say, Dayton, Ohio. It bred in him a style that was solid, soulful and swinging, with a charismatically salty wit to match. It hasn't broke, and he hasn't felt the need to fix it.

When "Sweet Poppa Lou" descended into the basement and ascended to the stage, there were the japes, the blues singing, the exemplary straight-ahead jazz he's pursued for decades. ("No fusion, no con-fusion," he said — twice.) WBGO and NPR Music will be there to broadcast and webcast the first Nov. 3 set live; it will also be recorded and archived online on this page.

Since recording with organist Jimmy Smith in the late 1950s, Donaldson has often worked with a rhythm section of Hammond B-3 organ, guitar and drums. That instrumentation allows him to dish on funky, danceable grooves; not coincidentally, it was responsible for some of his most famous appearances on record. He reprised some of those greatest hits — "Blues Walk," "Alligator Bogaloo" — and called some favorites from the bebop and hard bop eras. He even sang some blues: his trademark "Whiskey Drinkin' Woman," with many embellishments by way of prologue. With him at the Vanguard was his current working band: Pat Bianchi on organ, Randy Johnston on guitar and Fukushi Tainaka on drums.

Donaldson grew up in North Carolina. While playing in military and dance bands, he became enamored of Charlie Parker, then the modern trend in jazz. When he moved to New York to make it as a musician, he found his way into the community and, after a few years, was invited to record for Blue Note Records. He made some of his most celebrated albums for the label, and also recorded there as a sideman with Milt Jackson, Art Blakey and Jimmy Smith.

Though not as often as when he booked his own tours on the 1960s chitlin circuit, Donaldson still occasionally travels the world for gigs. He's also still based in New York City, which makes it convenient for him to play weeklong runs at the Village Vanguard. Of late, he's done so about twice a year.

Set List

  • "Blues Walk" (Donaldson)
  • "Wee" (D. Best)
  • "What A Wonderful World" (Thiele/Weiss)
  • "Fast And Freaky" (Donaldson)
  • "Whiskey Drinkin' Woman" (Donaldson)
  • "Alligator Bogaloo" (Donaldson)
  • "Bye Bye Blackbird" (Henderson/Dixon)
  • "Cherokee" (Noble)

Personnel

  • Lou Donaldson, alto saxophone/vocals
  • Pat Bianchi, organ
  • Randy Johnston, guitar
  • Fukushi Tainaka, drums

Credits

  • Josh Jackson, producer and host
  • David Tallacksen, mix engineer
  • Michael Downes, production assistant
  • Lara Pellegrinelli, moderator
[+] read more[-] less

More From Jazz

Vibraphonist Stefon Harris and double bassist Ben Williams. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Stefon Harris: A Generation's Preeminent Voice Of The Vibraphone

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Vibraphonist Stefon Harris gives us a lesson in empathy on and off the bandstand with his band Blackout.

Stefon Harris: A Generation's Preeminent Voice Of The Vibraphone

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/859446035/861194603" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Raul Midón plays a Tiny Desk (Home) concert. NPR/NPR hide caption

toggle caption NPR/NPR

Raul Midón (Home) Concert

The jazz singer and guitarist has multiple Grammy nominations to his name. He performed five songs for our Tiny Desk quarantine series.

Braxton Cook AT HOME NPR/NPR hide caption

toggle caption NPR/NPR

Braxton Cook Plays A Jazz-Infused Tiny Desk From Home

Braxton Cook has supported artists at the Tiny Desk on three separate occasions. This time around, he takes center seat, so to speak, from the comfort of his sunny New Jersey home.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis performs 'Portraits of America: A Jazz Story.' Frank Stewart /WBGO hide caption

toggle caption Frank Stewart /WBGO

Jazz And Art Take Center Stage To Form 'Portraits Of America'

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Let's go to the museum with our ears. Members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis explain their work inspired by the collection at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Jazz And Art Take Center Stage To Form 'Portraits Of America'

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/851561846/852088225" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Jon Batiste performs during Tiny Desk on November, 8 2019. (Photo by Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Jon Batiste Premieres New Music At The Tiny Desk

Jon Batiste premieres new songs and takes us through some of the many sides of his rich musical history at the Tiny Desk.

JNIA Monty Alexander and Ray Brown (Photo Courtesy of the Artist) hide caption

toggle caption (Photo Courtesy of the Artist)

'Smile' With A Performance By Pianist Monty Alexander And Bassist Ray Brown

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Hear a concert with pianist Monty Alexander and bassist Ray Brown from 2000. Host Christian McBride picks his favorite songs from the gig that puts both musicians' joy and camaraderie on full display.

Jazz Night in American - Monty Alexander and Ray Brown

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/841646948/841689423" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Watch the Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour perform live from Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. Jazz at Lincoln Center hide caption

toggle caption Jazz at Lincoln Center

Hear The Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour Perform Live At Jazz At Lincoln Center

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Hear highlights from a show with the Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour featuring Christian Sands, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Bria Skonberg, Melissa Aldana, Yasushi Nakamura and Jamison Ross.

Back To Top