Lou Donaldson

Play the Right Thing

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As specifically indicated by the album's title, the title tune's bluesy cast, and Sweet Lou Donaldson's own determined liner notes, this CD aims to strike a blow for soul-jazz, a once-popular, then-maligned idiom newly returned from exile. That it does -- with no frills, no apologies, and an idiomatic supporting cast. For Donaldson, it was a return to the style that lit up inner-city jukeboxes for him in the 1960s, and though his alto sax lacks some of the majesty that he could summon forth, his bop-flavored technique remained in fine shape in his mid-sixties. It was also a reunion with Donaldson's occasional organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, who contributes plenty of understated savvy to his solos and bass pedal underpinning. Peter Bernstein is the crisp, tasteful guitarist and Bernard Purdie remains the genre's premier timekeeper, assisted by conguero Ralph Dorsey. Together, they work over a series of standards ("Harlem Nocturne," "I Had the Craziest Dream"), some vintage bop (Charlie Parker's "Marmaduke"), and a few Donaldson compositions. "Whiskey Drinkin' Woman," a humorous slow blues featuring Donaldson's high-pitched, good-natured vocals, became a popular feature of his stage act into the next century. With all of these ingredients in place, the CD achieves a comfortable level of competence without really grabbing hold of a groove and riding it the way Donaldson could in his Blue Note days. Also, the sound is a little dry.

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