Donaldson, recently named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, is legendary for his energetically bluesy alto saxophone. “The octogenarian virtuoso has lost little to the passing decades,” notes the Chicago Tribune.
He will perform with Randy Johnston, guitar; Akiko Tsuruga, organ; and Fukushi Tainaka, drums.
The concert takes place in Morse Recital Hall, located in Sprague Hall (470 College Street, New Haven).
It is the second event in the 40th anniversary gala season of the Ellington Jazz Series at Yale.
Tickets to the concert are $20–$30, $10 with student ID. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the Yale School of Music concert office at 203 432-4158 or visit music.yale.edu.
The distinctive blues-drenched alto saxophone of Lou Donaldson has been a bopping force in jazz for more than six decades. Donaldson’s early work with trumpeter Clifford Brown is considered one of the first forays into hard bop, and his first recordings with organist Jimmy Smith led to the groove-filled jazz of the 1960s and ’70s.
Donaldson began playing the clarinet at age nine, and by 15 was enrolled in North Carolina A&T College in Greensboro, where he would later receive a BS degree. After serving in the Great Lakes Navy Band, he moved to New York City, attending the Darrow Institute of Music on the GI Bill but playing at the clubs in Harlem at night. Alfred Lion, co-founder of Blue Note Records, heard Donaldson playing and invited him to record for his label.
During the 1950s, Donaldson spent much of his time as a bandleader touring with a band that featured organist John Patton. Donaldson began using the organ-saxophone format exclusively, which led to his recording on Jimmy Smith’s seminal album The Sermon. He has employed a variety of other great organists, including Lonnie Smith (along with George Benson on Donaldson’s acclaimed recording Alligator Boogaloo), Jack McDuff, Charles Earland, Leon Spencer, Pat Bianchi, and Akiko Tsuruga. The organ-sax groove sound – which Donaldson called “swinging bebop” – helped, for a time, make jazz as popular as it had been during the swing era.
Donaldson is the recipient of an honorary doctorate of letters from his alma mater (now called the North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University) that also awards an annual scholarship in his name to the school’s most gifted jazz musician. He was inducted into the International Jazz Hall of Fame in 1996, among other honors, and was recently named a 2013 Jazz Master by the NEA.
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