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Lou Donaldson - Say It Loud!

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Artist: Lou Donaldson

Album: Say It Loud!

Label: Water

Review date: Jun. 6, 2005

Lou Donaldson is a fundamentally conservative player, the sort of guy who has worn his allegiance to Charlie Parker as a badge of honor and delights in disparaging "fusion and con-fusion" from the stage. He doesn't have much time for the avant-garde, either. But he knew how to adapt. In the '60s, he distilled his bebop-steeped playing to a blue-hued, soulful essence, and was rewarded with massive commercial success; Alligator Boogaloo, recorded in 1967, was one of Blue Note's best sellers.

A year and a half later, Say It Loud! was definitely intended to keep the cash registers ringing. The title track reconfigures James Brown's anthem, rushing through the raggedly sung lyric so that the combo's members can get in their licks. And what licks! This is definitely more of a soloist's showcase than a composer's record, and the statements run the gamut from reaffirming soul jazz verities to transcending them.

Throughout the album, Donaldson runs his alto sax through an electronic Varitone attachment, which gives his playing a buzzing tone that's as close as he ever came to sounding futuristic. It's as gimmicky as the cover illustration of afro-coifed soul sisters, and every bit as funky. Blue Mitchell's pure-toned trumpet, here and elsewhere, sounds great; piquant and eloquent, he was definitely having a good day. Guitarist Jimmy Ponder is tart and telling, darting in and out of drummer Leo Morris (the future Idris Muhammad) and organist Charles Earland's spirited rendition of that timeless groove. The effects on Donaldson's sax are more prominent on a slinky version of "Summertime," boosting its bottom end. Riding Earland's idiomatically faithful accompaniment, his solo amounts to a summons - don't be like that, babe, your daddy's getting lonely. Get in this hot tub right now!

The Varitone amps up the sweetness in Donaldson's tone on the ensuing cover of Duke Ellington's "Caravan," which is taken at a brisk trot. It's Mitchell who really sings here, etching elegant shapes into the music's surface, while Earland and Ponder chip in once more with stylistically apropos passages. Two long originals round out the album. "Snake Bone" is a rump-roller with a boogaloo beat and lots of space for lengthy solos by everyone by Morris. Mitchell is marvelous again, at once blue and peppery, but Earland is in his element. He also lords it over "Brother Soul," riding its sauntering rhythm right into the fade.

By Bill Meyer

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