Lou Donaldson Quartet with Dr. Lonnie Smith | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Lou Donaldson Quartet with Dr. Lonnie Smith 

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

Veteran alto saxist Lou Donaldson faces the audience with a raised eyebrow and a toothy grin, and his horn's high-pitched, eely timbre--which still has plenty of the grease that made him a soul-jazz hero in the 60s and 70s--complements his squeaky voice. (When he sings one of his raucously funny blues tunes, he's like a male Moms Mabley.) Along with his contemporaries Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Donaldson had to confront the music of Charlie Parker, but he took a different tack: Parker was at heart a bluesman, and Donaldson's sizable catalog of pleasantly skewed bebop emphasizes that side of Bird's music. For this weekend's sets, part of the Jazz Showcase's monthlong tribute to Parker, Donaldson plays with a longtime collaborator, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith. Though this arrangement strains the verisimilitude of the tribute--Parker never worked with organ groups, which were just evolving when he died in 1955--I'm willing to bend a lot of rules for the good doctor. Smith hit the scene as an inventive soul-jazz player in the late 60s but stopped making records as a leader in 1979. When he returned in '91, wearing the turbans that have since become his trademark (and bearing an honorific of uncertain origin), he offered instead a gratifyingly impressionistic spin on classic jazz organ. Smith fills his solos with stuff most organists use only as seasoning--surprising accents, percussive passages, abstract swirls of tonal color--and they reliably turn out airy as souffles but filling as stew. As a sideman he blithely enhances any bandleader's intent; on his own recent discs he's turned his attention to the demanding music of icons like Coltrane and Hendrix. Even if the jazz-organ renaissance of the 90s had done nothing else for the genre, it would've justified itself by returning the spotlight to Smith. $20. Friday and Saturday, August 13 and 14, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, August 15, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Michael Jackson.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Neil Tesser

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
His Shadow 16th Street Theater, Berwyn Cultural Center
September 05
Performing Arts
The Great Leap Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Upstairs Theatre
September 05

Tabbed Event Search

Popular Stories