Lou Donaldson is another of those ‘hidden gems’ that you might not have come across before.
Born in 1926 in Badin, North Carolina, Lou Donaldson grew up playing church music. His father was a minister and his mother a music teacher and it was whilst serving in the Navy during the Second World War that he was introduced to the Be Bop music of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
Donaldson is best known now for his soulful, funky 1960s recordings that feature some of the greatest soul jazz players ever to record. These include guitarists Grant Green, Melvin Sparks, Jimmy Ponder and George Benson, organists John Patton, Billy Gardner, Lonnie Smith, Charles Earland and Leon Spencer, Jr., drummers Ben Dixon (one of the great underrated groovers), and Leo Morris/Idris Muhammad, whose work on the kit defined the funky boogaloo soul jazz sound of the late 1960s. Records like Good Gracious (1963, Blue Note), Musty Rusty (1965, Cadet), Alligator Bogaloo [sic], Mr. Shing-a-ling (1967, Blue Note) and Hot Dog (1970, Blue Note), among others, are quintessential examples of the jukebox, funky, soulful 1960s jazz that came to define “rare grooves” in the soul jazz revival period of the 1990s.
He was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame on October 11, 2012. Also in 2012, he was named a NEA Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, United States’ highest honor in jazz music.