Lou Donaldson –Born November 1, 1926

Lou Donaldson, the alto saxophonist who turned 90 on November 1, 2016, is the last living and performing member of the cohort of great Jazz musicians who recorded timeless music over 60 years ago. Born in Badin, North Carolina on November 1, 1926, Mr. Donaldson was attracted to bebop Jazz during the Second World War Years which he spent serving in the US Navy bases in Chicago.

A student of Charlie Parker, Lou Donaldson’s first Jazz records were in 1950. He played with some of the luminaries of early 1950s Jazz, among them Theloneous Monk, Clifford Brown, Milt Jackson, Horace Silver, Blue Mitchell, Philly Joe Jones and Art Blakey.

A founder member of Hard Bop, Mr. Donaldson’s playing alongside Clifford Brown, the incomparable trumpeter, Horace Silver (piano), Curly Russell (bass) and Art Blakey (drums), is one reason why the Blue Note albums “A Night at Birdland” Vol. 1&2 are among the essential Jazz recordings. These riveting performances, mostly new music composed by Donaldson and Horace Silver,  were recorded on February 21, 1954, without much rehearsal.


L-R: Front – Lou Donaldson, Clifford Brown L-R: Back – Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Curly Russell – February 21, 1954 (Photographer: Francis Wolff)

A master of bebop and hard bop, his musical offerings include blues and soul music. Of his many recordings, his Blue Note albums are among the finest. He continues to play his alto sax to great acclaim. He was elected a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2012 and Best Alto Saxophonist in 2015.

A few interesting facts about Mr. Donaldson:

He has lived with asthma since childhood.

He has never smoked tobacco and has never used drugs or alcohol.

He married his girlfriend, Ms. Maker Baker, in 1950. The couple stayed married until her death in 2006.

Recommended Lou Donaldson recordings:

Sunny Side Up – Blue Note 4036


Lou Takes Off – Blue Note 1591


Blues Walk – Blue Note 1593


The Time is Right – Blue Note 4015


L-R: Clifford Brown (tr), Curly Russell (bass), Lou Donaldson (as) at Birdland, February 21, 1954 (Photographer: Francis Wolff)

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