Lou Donaldson

Caracas

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Lou Donaldson didn't break any new ground in the 1990s; instead, the veteran alto saxophonist excelled by sticking with the type of soul-jazz/hard bop that brought him a lot of commercial success (by jazz standards) in the 1960s. Caracas was recorded in 1993, but it sounds like it could have been recorded 30 years earlier. Regardless, this CD is excellent. Caracas was produced by Bob Porter, who has produced numerous soul-jazz and organ combo dates -- if any producer knows soul-jazz, it's Porter. And not surprisingly, he helps brings out the best in Donaldson, who is joined by organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, drummer Kenny Washington, and the Grant Green-influenced guitarist Peter Bernstein. Donaldson, who was 66 when this CD was recorded, is in fine form on groove-oriented blues (Jimmy Forrest's "Night Train") and romantic ballads (Neal Hefti's "Lil' Darlin'"), as well as one fast bop number: Charlie Parker's "Ornithology." Although the more accessible, groove-oriented stuff is what brought Donaldson the most commercial success, his albums usually contain at least one example of high-speed, Parker-minded bebop and, on Caracas, he acknowledges his Bird roots with "Ornithology." Donaldson will be the first to tell you that he is an instrumentalist first and foremost; however, he does provide the occasional vocal. The enjoyably humorous "Just a Dream (On My Mind)" finds him putting a 1990s spin on lyrics that Chicago blues great Big Bill Broonzy wrote back in the 1930s. Is Caracas essential? Not quite, but it's still a highly rewarding album that will please die-hard soul-jazz enthusiasts.

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