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Donaldson ready to jazz up his ‘old stompin’ grounds’

Lou Donaldson says he’s glad to be making a return to what he calls his “old stompin’ grounds.”

The alto saxophonist who helped create the soul jazz sound recalls “playing in all of those clubs like the Crawford Grill. There was a lot of clubs back then.”

Those venues are gone, but Donaldson’s sound is still around and he will show it off Tuesday evening Downtown.

He also will show off the crisp bebop skills that first started to bring him to the fore in jazz in mid-’50s. That is what makes performing still fun for a jazz star who has just celebrated his 84th birthday.

“I play a little bebop and mix it up,” he says. He knows, however, his audience tends to want his soul jazz material, but the blend makes it workable. “It’s no problem for me.”

By the way, that means he probably will play “Alligator Boogaloo,” the 1967 hit that is something of a theme song.

“I play that all the time,” he says.

Donaldson grew up in North Carolina and moved to New York in 1952. He began to perform with such jazz greats of the time as Horace Silver and Art Blakey, although he was never a member of the Jazz Messengers.

He became a band leader in the late ’50s and by the mid-’60s added an organ to his band, helping to shape his memorable style.

He will be performing in that setting this trip with drummer Fukushi Tainaka and organist Pat Bianchi, two members of his usual group, and Pittsburgh guitarist Eric Johnson.

While he says the blend between bebop and soul keeps him happy, he admits he is not out there performing as often has he once was.

These days, he is in Florida on what he calls his “mid-winter hiatus,” which included a recent cruise. He will continue the time off after this date until mid-January when he has a scheduled a European tour.

“I’m not a young guy anymore,” he says. “I’m spacing them out.”

Additional Information:

Lou Donaldson

When: 7:30 Tuesday

Admission: $25, $30

Where: The Cabaret Theater, Penn Avenue, Downtown

Details: 412-456-6666


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