Lou Donaldson

Birdseed

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Like fellow alto saxophonists Phil Woods, Jackie McLean, Frank Morgan, Ernie Henry, and Sonny Criss, Lou Donaldson started out with a very Charlie Parker-like tone but went on to develop a recognizable sound of his own. Bird's influence never disappeared from Donaldson's playing, although he successfully combined that influence with many ideas of his own. The title Birdseed might lead some to wonder if this 1992 date is a tribute to Parker -- it isn't, and the CD doesn't contain any Parker songs at all. However, that title is Donaldson's way of acknowledging Parker's tremendous contributions. (Producer Orrin Keepnews put it best when he said that there are basically two types of jazz: before and after Charlie Parker). Though the uptempo title song has a very Bird-like melody, it is Donaldson's own ideas that make this album as appealing as it is. From the Johnny Hodges-minded ballad "Dorothy" (written by singer Rudy Nichols) to earthy blues statements on Gene Ammons' "Red Top" and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson's "Back Door Blues," Birdseed finds Donaldson in fine form at 65. The CD's most surprising track is "Pennies From Heaven," which has usually been heard at a fast or medium speed in recent decades but is returned to a ballad tempo by Donaldson (who is joined by organist David Braham, drummer Fukushi Tainaka, percussionist Ralph Dorsey, and the Grant Green-influenced guitarist Peter Bernstein). Produced by Bob Porter, Birdseed falls short of essential but is inspired and swinging.

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