SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Lou Donaldson – Sunny Side Up – Blue Note /Analogue Productions

LD Sunnyside Up.

Published on August 14, 2011

Lou Donaldson – Sunny Side Up – Blue Note /Analogue Productions

Lou Donaldson – Sunny Side Up – Blue Note ST-84036 /Analogue Productions CBNJ 84036 SA – SACD Stereo, 44:51 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

(Lou Donaldson, alto sax; Bill Hardman, trumpet; Horace Parlan, piano; Laymon Jackson or Sam Jones, bass; Al Harewood, drums)

Lou Donaldson holds a unique position among Blue Note Records 1950s and 1960s era artists. Approaching age 85, Lou is still performing, and still vital. Though he has not recorded for the label since 1973, he remains most famous for his Blue Note recordings. Lou has managed to marry bop, blues,
soul jazz, Latin beat jazz, and hard bop in a distinctive sweet blues-based tone that is inimitable. Early in his career, he was influenced by Charlie Parker, but he soon developed his own style that has carried him through six decades.

He brought Latin rhythms into the mix, using Ray Barretto on congas. He later became known for his saxophone and Hammond B-3 groups with a many-year relationship with Dr. Lonnie Smith. He played with Blakey, Silver, and Clifford Brown in groups that pre-dated the Jazz Messengers. From the bop days, Lou has been around to see it all, and if you see him live, he’ll tell you—particularly that if you can’t play the blues you don’t belong on the stage with him…

Analogue Productions in their Blue Note stereo-only SACD re-issue series has picked a ripe plum from the prime Donaldson 1960s period with the issuance of Sunny Side Up. It is rather unique in that it includes a trumpeter, Bill Hardman, who had three periods with Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, from the ’50s to the ’70s, being known mostly for his bop trumpet chops.

Sunny Side Up is mostly known for its hard bop credentials with a mixture of standards to blues and early soul jazz motifs. “Blues for J.P.” kicks off the 1960 session with straight ahead blues. Hardman and Lou blend well before Bill blows several mid-register choruses. His playing is low key, and does not overwhelm nor hog the limelight from Donaldson’s sensuous blues lines. I have often thought that Lou comes close to Johnny Hodges on the smile-inducing effortless blues-playing scale. Horace Parlan is the perfect pianist for Lou as he has gospel blues down pat. Analogue Productions has done a superb job with bringing the bass up front in the mix and Laymon Jackson is rock steady on the opening track. “The Man I Love” gets a playful reading with Donaldson throwing in humorous asides in his solo on the track done with bop overtones.

“Politely” is hard bop manna from heaven. Sam Jones is on bass here, and you can hear his influence such as he provided later for the Adderley brothers. I just love the warmth that SACD brings to this album.  I’d argue it’s on par with any analogue vinyl for its warmth without a trace of the harshness that standard CD can have. Drums, bass, and piano are well- mixed to match the horns presence. “Politely” sets a standard that is hard to beat.

For gospel beat hard bop turn to “The Truth” where Lou sets us straight on the right path with all the right blues changes. If you are a LD fan, it does not get much better than this. Pure bliss…

“Goose Grease” is next and is early soul jazz that has held up well for Lou from the late 50s with Blues Walk all the way through the ’70s with Everything I Play is Funky, all on Blue Note. Here the grease is kept warm again by Sam Jones.

Bill Hardman is featured on muted trumpet on “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” done fairly straight ahead without any frills. “Way Down Upon the Swanee River” is added as a bonus track and Donaldson gives it a blues reading with Bill Hardman and Horace Parlan getting significant solo space.

Thumbs up for Sunny Side Up. Soulful playing with superb acoustics….

TrackList: Blues for J.P., The Man I Love, Politely, It’s You or No One, The Truth, Goose Grease, Softly as in a Morning Sunrise, Way Down Upon the Swanee River

— Jeff Krow




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