Lou Donaldson – Episode 10


On this episode of the Chiaroscuro Podcast, we explore the work and legacy of Lou Donaldson.

About Lou Donaldson

This time we feature saxophonist Lou Donaldson, one of the most soulful players who recorded on the Chiaroscuro label. Donaldson is a 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master.

Born in North Carolina in 1926, he came from a musical family, with his mother a piano teacher, and his two sisters also musicians.

He was playing clarinet at age nine, and by age 15 was enrolled in the music program at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, where he would later earn a BS degree. In 1945, he was drafted into the Navy and became a member of the Great Lakes Navy Band, where he worked with Clark Terry and Ernie Wilkins among others. After his stint in the Navy, he moved to New York, where he became part of the emerging bebop scene, influenced by Charlie Parker and others. His first recordings were on Blue Note Records, and he helped to get Art Blakey, and Horace Silver signed to the label. He appeared on Art Blakey’s influential album “A Night at Birdland.”

Lou Donaldson became known for his work in organ combo settings, with among other organists John Patton and Jimmy Smith.

About the Music

Donaldson appears on two Chiaroscuro releases, both of which were recorded in the 1990s as part of the Floating Jazz Festival on ocean cruises. He appears on alto sax as a leader of a group with Dr. Lonnie Smith on organ Randy Johnson on guitar and Danny Burger on drums. 

About The Chiaroscuro Podcast

Chiaroscuro Director of Artistry & Repertoire George Graham produces and hosts The Chiaroscuro Podcast. Explore the works of other Chiaroscuro performers in our Artists Section. Check out other episodes of the Chiaroscuro Podcast here