Enjoy this radio interview at https://www.npr.org/2019/06/19/733992956/good-gracious-words-of-wisdom-and-soulful-reflection-from-sweet-papa-lou-donalds or click on the link in the NPR overview below.
Good Gracious! Words Of Wisdom And Soulful Reflection From ‘Sweet Papa’ Lou Donaldson
June 20, 20192:54 PM ET
Trevor Smith Nate Chinen
Lou Donaldson, the alto saxophonist fondly known as “Sweet Papa,” tends to characterize his colorfully sprawling life in jazz as the pursuit of a fundamental aim. “I always had my music geared to the people,” he says. “‘Cause when I played, I listened to what they were giving me the applause for.”
During a career spanning more than six decades, Donaldson met that standard with style to spare — in the earliest hard-bop bands, alongside Art Blakey and Clifford Brown; with a winning series of 1960s Blue Note albums, like Alligator Bogaloo, that would come to epitomize soul jazz; as a blues-and-bebop legacy artist, recognized as an NEA Jazz Master; and as a core sample source for hip-hop artists like Pete Rock and De La Soul.
Donaldson, 92, has lately been enjoying a retiree’s easy pace in Florida, but he’s no less garrulous and mischievous than he ever was, as we’ll hear in this episode of Jazz Night in America. Our host, Christian McBride, visited Donaldson at home, and their conversation is an unguarded and salty treat. (“The only jazz I hear,” quips Sweet Papa Lou, “is when some old people play it.”)
We’ll also hear plenty of music, pulled not only from Donaldson’s storied catalog but also a 2009 date at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, with his longtime organ quartet. We’ll hear Don Was, the president of Blue Note, explain why Donaldson has been key to the label’s legacy. And we’ll hear Pete Rock break down the magic of those tracks from a hip-hop point of view. “To me, Lou was special,” Rock reflects — a sentiment we all share at Jazz Night, in a vibrant present tense.
Lou Donaldson, alto saxophone, vocals; Randy Johnston, guitar; Akiko Tsuruga, organ; Fukishi Tainaka, drums
Host: Christian McBride; Producers: Trevor Smith with Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Recording Engineer: Rob Macomber; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Special thanks to Hannah Harris Green, Sam Turken, Roberta Magrini, Belviana Todmann, Cem Kurosman, and Colin Moreshead
Photo Courtesy of Todd Barkan: Interesting perspectives on the art of communication in jazz, as shared by the legendary Lou Donaldson and Benny Golson in a Manhattan studio on Friday, August 21st, 2015 with Todd Barkan and Kevin Struthers for The Kennedy Center ArtsEdge Program which will soon be seen worldwide on the kennedycenter.org website, and also features Jimmy Heath, Camille Thurman, and Stefon Harris.
——Courtesy of OregonMusicNews.com:
Jazz Masters, Jazz household names Lou Donaldson and Christian McBride on Saturday, February 21 in the Art Bar as part of the Portland Jazz Festival’s Jazz Conversations. This is why we bring you these conversations…for moments like these.
Note: the podcast from this 2015 interview at the Portland Jazz Festival that was posted on Oregon Music News no longer appears to be available. Enjoy a partial transcript on the Jazz Times website at https://jazztimes.com/features/back-in-them-days-the-lou-donaldson-interview/
Alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson is an innovator.
He teamed up with trumpeter Clifford Brown and pianist Horace Silver to develop hard bop in the early ’50s, featured brilliantly on drummer Art Blakey’s classic live album “A Night At Birdland.”
In the 6’0s, he helped create soul jazz with a number of hit records using a Hammond organ backing, including his biggest hit, “Alligator Boogaloo.”
Now at age 88, Donaldson brought the house down at this year’s Portland Jazz Festival, and took the time to talk with me about his long and successful career.
As it happens, he was raised in a musical family, though he didn’t expect a life playing music.