Lou Donaldson

Blue Breakbeats

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Back in 1998, Blue Note came out with a series of little 35- to 45-minute "Breakbeats" samplers taken from the thick, rich catalogs of Bobbi Humphrey, Grant Green, Reuben Wilson, Lee Morgan, Donald Byrd, and Lou Donaldson. What you get on this particular volume are six very enjoyable examples of Lou Donaldson's best jazz-funk grooves harvested from the golden formative years of this well-loved style (1963-1970). The collective personnel is pretty wicked, and includes Blue Mitchell, Melvin Sparks, Grant Green, Charles Earland, and Idris Muhammad. As usual, the background for the music is way bigger and runs much deeper than many folks realize. Anyone who has gone back and assessed Donaldson's entire career knows that he was one of the few alto players who didn't switch to tenor in the shadow of Charlie Parker during the 1950s. Donaldson's chops were always as formidable as Bird's or Earl Bostic's, James Moody's or Cannonball Adderley's. His recorded legacy is a lot more diverse than you would imagine if all you went by were the funky tracks that have since been lucratively "legitimated" by the recording industry in response to the sampling habits of a whole generation of DJ mixologists. Not to complain -- it's very cool that Lou Donaldson's funk-jazz is getting reissued and is being enjoyed by people young enough to be his great-grandchildren. It's just that it would be awfully nice if more people were aware of the considerable stylistic range of his music. The root system of these "Breakbeats" exists in the amazing and to some extent overlooked records that Lou Donaldson made between 1952 and 1963. For maximum enjoyment and fulfillment, get some context for the funk and you'll enjoy it like never before.

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