The Lou Donaldson Quartet at Dizzy’s through February 1st

Posted in REVIEWS
Written by Don Berryman
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Lou Donaldson © Andrea Canter

Lou Donaldson © Andrea Canter

Lou Donaldson is one of the most respect alto player with a career spanning over a half a century performing bebop, hard-bop and soul jazz. The Lou Donaldson Quartet featuring Randy Johnston on guitar, Akiko Tsuruga on organ, Fukushi Tainaka on drums along with Lou on alto sax will perform at the Dizzy’s Jazz Club in New York on Tuesday, January 27th through Sunday, February 1st.

An ‘old school’ player, the octogenarian Donaldson states that his playing style is a cross between Charlie Parker and Johnny Hodges, adding, “you know, the people that I listened to when I was coming up”. The great jazz pianist, Horace Parlan said of Donaldson, “One of the unique qualities of Lou’s work is that he incorporates a great deal of the whole jazz tradition in his playing. He’s listened to just about everyone, and not only alto players. With this knowledge of the entire jazz language, Lou is definitely an individual voice.”

A pioneer of the jazz organ combo,  Lou had four distinct groups that he would use for the organ sound: one group was John Patton on organ, Bill Hardman on trumpet, Grant Green on guitar, and Ben Dixon on drums. Another group was Lonnie Smith on organ, Billy Kaye on drums, Mark Elf on guitar — and sometimes Melvin Sparks on guitar, and Joe Dukes on drums — possibly the greatest organ drummer of all times. Later he had another group with Caesar Frazier on organ, Eric Johnson on guitar, and Billy Kaye on drums. Another of Lou’s groups had Charles Earland on organ, Jimmy Ponder on guitar, Blue Mitchell on trumpet, and Idris Muhammad on drums.

Akiko Tsuruga

Akiko Tsuruga

The newest member of Lou’s current quartet, filling in the large shoes of her mentor, Dr. Lonnie Smith (who was Donaldson’s organist for many years) is the talented, New York City based Hammond Organist and pianist, Akiko Tsuruga. Akiko has become an ‘in demand’ player since arriving from her hometown of Osaka, Japan in 2001.  After arriving in New York, Akiko established herself as one of the area’s top organist /pianists. Her trio featuring guitarist Eric Johnson and drummer Vincent Ector has been one of the area’s top groups, working at many jazz nightclubs including Dizzy’s (at Lincoln center) and The Blue Note. Her trio also plays private parties and summer outdoor concerts. Her long awaited debut CD, “Harlem Dreams” featuring Grady Tate and Frank Wess was released in Japan on the M&I Company label on 2004. “Sweet and Funky”, Akiko’s first release in the US and Canada and her second in Japan, has been receiving rave reviews. It has reached #13 on the jazz radio charts and received a four-star review from Downbeatmagazine.

“I don’t care what kind of style a group plays as long as they settle into a groove where the rhythm keeps building instead of changing around. It’s like the way an African hits a drum. He hits it a certain way, and after a period of time, you feel it more than you did when he first started. He’s playing the same thing, but the quality is different — it’s settled into a groove. It’s like settin’ tobacco in a pipe. You put some heat on it and make it expand. After a while, it’s there. It’s tight.” – Lou Donaldson

Dizzy’s is located at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center Broadway at 60th Street, on the 5th Floor. For Reservations Call: 212 258-9595 or -9795. Seating is available on a first-come first-served basis either at tables or at the bar. For more information, visit:

Jazz at Lincoln Center is a not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to jazz. With the world-renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and a comprehensive array of guest artists, Jazz at Lincoln Center advances a unique vision for the continued development of the art of jazz by producing a year-round schedule of performance, education and broadcast events for audiences of all ages.