Lou Donaldson at Birdland, 2/8/2013

9 Feb

What better way to spend an evening during Winter Storm Nemo than at Birdland? Birdland is class, elegance, history and good taste. Last night, bass player Jason Ajemian (http://jasonajemian.com) and I had a wonderful time during the first set of the Lou Donaldson (http://loudonaldson.com) quartet. Ajemian appreciates musicians such as 2013 NEA Jazz Master Donaldson (https://www.prx.org/pieces/90286-nea-jazz-moments-with-lou-donaldson) for their ‘youthful and spirited music.’ And I am sure the second set was just as pleasant as the first one.

Birdland is cosy and its staff (managers, waiters, etc…) extremely professional. Lou Donaldson’s sense of humor is remarkable. As he presented his set, and each song, he took pleasure in telling stories to the audience, about the music, and the songs, and musicians, which made the evening even more delightful. Donaldson was accompanied by Detroiter Randy Johnston (http://www.randyjohnston.net) on guitar, Baltimorean McClenty D. Hunter Jr. (http://www.mcclentyhunter.com) on drums (who, according to Donaldson,  has a little bit of “Max Roach and Art Blakey”) and Osakaner Akiko Tsuruga (http://akikotsuruga.com/en/sweet-and-funky/) on the Hammond B3 organ.

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The quartet started with “Blues Walk.” The second tune the band performed was “The Best Things in life are free,” (to which Donaldson added “if you have money”) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjCIsiIUGiQ). Donaldson quoted “Rhapsody in Blue” and for the third song of the set, the quartet opted for Armstrong’s “What a wonderful world.” The following song was “Fast and Freaky.” Donaldson, however, suggested that it should be “fast but not too freaky.” He also added that it was “not recommended for fusion musicians.” For him, “no fusion, no confusion.”

The next song Donaldson sang was “She’s a whiskey drinking woman” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKbrGPJLRZo). Yes, this incredible musician is also a singer. And for Donaldson, “if you haven’t suffered, you can’t understand [the blues].” After that, the band played “Alligator Boogaloo” (http://www.bluenote.com/artists/lonnie-smith/alligator-boogaloo), a song they recorded with Blue Note and which is full of humor as well.

The seventh song of the set was “It could happen to you,” performed by Randy Johnston, McClenty Hunter and Akiko Tsuruga only, which Donaldson referred to as “The unholy trio.” While making room for them to shine on stage, Donaldson, closer to the bar, still played a few notes to accompany them.

The last song was a blues. Donaldson explained that usually, blues means “a story about men and women who fight, but tonight it is just about men who smoke too much.”

Donaldson was a great person to weather Nemo with and Birdland was a good place to see him perform.

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