CULTURE

Too late to stop 75-year-old now

The capital’s Half Note Jazz Club will be opening with a bang for the new season, courtesy of the popular alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson, who will be returning to the venue (less than a year after his previous tour here) for one week of performances beginning this Friday. As has been customary throughout the accomplished jazzman’s career, Donaldson will be accompanied by his longtime collaborator Dr. Lonnie Smith, one of the jazz scene’s leading Hammond organists, as part of the frontman’s quartet. Joining them will be Fukushi Tanaika on drums and Peter Bernstein on guitar. Last time round, Donaldson, who has delivered a steady flow of albums since the early 1950s and earned a reputation as one of Charlie Parker’s most diligent disciples, rendered, despite his advanced years, a seemingly effortless, beautifully played set. It was a delight to listen to and observe Donaldson, 74 at the time, now 75, and his veteran partner in a performance that ran on nothing but sheer intuition, acquired through talent and time, as its fuel. Donaldson led the quartet for most of the way with Smith occasionally taking over the helm to produce plenty of magic from his Hammond organ. Without the on-stage picture to go by, it could well have been a top-notch jazz-funk album, released two or three decades ago, played on the stereo. Considering Donaldson’s willingness to tour extensively until this very day, the standards will, no doubt, be high again at the Half Note. An effervescent touring artist, the elderly jazz player has been averaging about eight months per year on the road over the past decade. Despite falling short of full recognition from jazz critics, an outcome that can probably be attributed to Donaldson’s style, a lighter, infectious, and funkier take on jazz, the touring saxophonist has never been out of action since his emergence. Moreover, his signature sound, well suited to the dance floor, has also made Donaldson a popular artist among younger audiences, and influenced musicians in more recent times. The foundations he had laid provided sturdy support for the acid-jazz movement that exploded onto London’s club circuit in the late 1980s after DJs began discovering jazz’s groovier sides, as played by the likes of Donaldson and many other bands throughout the 1960s and 1970s, with the Hammond organ a standard feature. The instrument itself, introduced in the 1960s, had troubled purists at first before eventually gaining acceptance. Though Donaldson’s insistence on this novel-sounding instrument inhibited the amount of respect the musician was able to command, the stance ultimately helped distinguish him as a jazzman who approached his craft from a unique vantage point. Donaldson’s position as a prominent figure amid the soul-jazz movement of the 1960s was, in fact, further enhanced when he started to use a Hammond organist instead of the customary pianist in his groups. His right-hand man, the organist Smith, had featured in many of the saxophonist’s earlier outfits, both for stage performances and recordings, including numerous celebrated albums released in the 1960s and 1970s on the historic Blue Note label. Not surprisingly, Donaldson’s appreciation of Smith’s talent is boundless. He once described the artist as the most dynamic organist on the modern scene, able to play with immense feeling. Besides Donaldson, Smith’s sound has attracted numerous other distinguished employers over the years, including Miles Davis and Pharaoh Sanders. Apart from his role as band leader, Donaldson, too, has collaborated with some of the jazz circuit’s more prestigious acts, particularly in the early days. Before he began recording under his own name, in 1952, Donaldson recorded for artists such as Thelonious Monk and Horace Silver. He also played with Art Blakey in a lineup that foreshadowed his historic combo, the Jazz Messengers, and also Charles Mingus before eventually going on to lead his own bands, a position Donaldson has maintained for the greater part of his career. -Capers with some activity has been involved in the shipment of untreated commodities. The interest is almost on T/C periods.