Lou Donaldson: The Natural Soul (1962) Blue Note

Apologies, initial post went horribly wrong, new WordPress block-editor, missing text, now reinstated, and rip.

Selection: Nice ‘n Greasy (Johnny Acea – pianist on Don Wilkerson’s “Elder Don”)

YouTube has the whole album

Approaching 200,000 views


Tommy Turrentine, trumpet; Lou Donaldson, alto saxophone; “Big” John Patton, organ; Grant Green, guitar; Ben Dixon, drums; engineer Rudy Van Gelder, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, May 9, 1962

Lou Donaldson is living proof that happy music goes with longer life – currently innings 93 and not out.

Though widely associated with soul jazz, Donaldson’s first recordings appeared in the early 50’s and his first appearance on Blue Note was in the company of bop giants: BLP 1509, Milt Jackson And The Thelonious Monk Quintet , and BLP 1511, The Thelonious Monk Sextet, Genius Of Modern Music Volume 2, taking the lead on BLP 1537 Lou Donaldson Quartet,Quintet/Sextet, with Horace Silver, then joining the hard-bop predecessor to The Jazz Messengers, The Art Blakey Quintet, with Clifford Brown trumpet.

By the later ’50s, Donaldson had well established himself in the Blue Note soul jazz portfolio, in the mid ’60s moving to the Cadet and Argo label with the same formula, returning to join Liberty Blue Note with a string of boogaloo titles in line with their label direction: BN 4263 Alligator Boogaloo; BN 4271 Mr Shingaling; BN 4280 Midnight Creeper; BN 4299 Say It Loud; and BN 4318 Hot Dog, (which Blue Note themselves describe as “a series of less interesting funk recordings that were instantly dated and not worthy of his talent“).

Starting in the 70’s, electric guitars and electric bass took their place in Donaldson’s line up, electric piano, and mercifully briefly, a varitone electric sax. A decade of happy music followed. Scott Yannow notes Donaldson’s return to form in the ’80s, with soul-jazz and hard bop dates for Muse, Timeless, and Milestone, up until a last recording in 1993, at which point which Donaldson seems to have hung up his alto, to enjoy his well-earned retirement, receive various jazz industry awards, and select special live appearances to reprise his greatest hits.

In one interview, Donaldson declared himself an unashamed crowd-pleaser. “I always had my music geared to the people,” he said. “‘ ’cause when I played, I listened to what they were giving me the applause for.” Not a bad metric for a musician.


The Natural Soul finds Lou Donaldson digging into soul-jazz with a set of organ-combo instrumentals.. Absent a bass, organ pedals instead, the quintet format adds more interest with Stanley’s brother Tommy Turrentine on trumpet, while the trio of Grant Green, John Patton, and Ben Dixon keep things cooking nicely. The album maintains the trajectory Lou Donaldson established with his earlier soul-jazz forays, Here ‘Tis and Gravy Train and remains one of his better Blue Notes in that genre, though Blues Walk , absent the organ, remains my favourite Lou Donaldson album of all time..

The material in The Natural Soul is straight blues and soul vamps, which provide an excellent foundation for the organ combo work.Green and Patton’s solos burn and are always in the groove. Dusty Groove adds: “The tracks have a tight jaunty feel – very much like those on Patton’s mid 60s sides for Blue Note, with lots of room for each player to solo intently – but still a strong focus on the overall groove of the ensemble”

It is a happy groove, and that’s what The Natural Soul is all about. For those not familiar with the word “happy“, it is perhaps something in short supply today , and good to find.

Vinyl: BLP 4108

New York label, Plastylite, Deep Groove, Mono.

Cover design, note the use by Reid Miles of Capital Punishment: no capital letters. Feels suitably informal.

Collector’s Corner

An LJC acquisition in the early days, around 2012, according to my notes. My jazz-rookie ears took to the soul jazz format early on, buying a good number of titles, before progressing to more demanding material. It is quite a long journey of several years, from feet to belt, and to two ears. The dividing line for me is Donaldson’s organ-combo work, which included Babyface Willette, Big John Patton, Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff; Billy Gardner, Lonnie Smith and Charles Earland; and his conventional piano (and real bass) line up with Herman Foster, or Horace Parlan, the latter much preferred

Note to self: time to revisit Lou’s early 1500 series Blue Notes, which sadly I have only on rather soft Japanese editions. 1500 series original Blue Notes are not something readily found: originals of those below heading for the $2,000 ceiling.

From Quartet Quintet Sextet – The Stroller

. . .

As you acquire bits and pieces in the jazz-collecting journey, you buy things out of chronological and stylistic sequence, simply because they are there. My watchword has always been the opportunity: “if you see it, buy it, you may never see it again“. That has certainly proved true, some priceless treasures, at the small expense of acquiring a few duds.You can never recover lost opportunity, because it has gone, it’s lost. You also have to get over buyer’s remorse having over-paid for a record. It’s only money. It is evened out by the times you paid not enough, the bargains.Hi-diddle-e-dee, a collector’s life for me.

Any Lou favourites out there?

21 thoughts on “Lou Donaldson: The Natural Soul (1962) Blue Note

  1. Plenty of good Lou around, I particularly like “Lightfoot” and “Gravy Train” which apart from good Donaldson has the double handed piano of Herman Foster . I would also add “Fried Buzzard” on Argo/Cadet , if ever you wanted to be in a club with the band roaring then this is it , live from the Bon Ton Club in Buffalo NY with Bill Hardman etc.1965.

  2. Lou’s mid 60’s Cadet / Argo sides were also mostly pretty good, if less celebrated than his BN tenure, and this period also marked the beginning of his work with funky drum master Idris Muhammad (then known as Leo Morris) which drove so many of his great late 60’s BN’s. When I was producing the Chess reissues series for AP in the late 70’s I put out Lou’s Rough House Blues (w/ Oliver Nelson orchestra)

    • Lou’s right, and he should know! I just reprised six minutes of Blues Walk, posted here back in 2012, the Van Gelder-mastered stereo edition (with cover STEREO sticker)


      Lou’s playing is flawless, every wailing note earns its keep; the sure-footed linear twelve-bar changes, bitter-sweet grace-notes, the Rollin’s opening stutter, and the cascading firestorm of emotional release. Herman Foster’s reverb-driven barrelhouse piano captures the mood just right, Peck Morrison’s walking bass provides the underling forward motion. Blues Walk is the miracle-cure for anyone feeling blue. So uplifting!

      Blues Walk is one of my dessert-island discs. I should just book an imaginary dessert-island right now – has to be better than what we are all going through. What? No-one can fly? OK, make that an imaginary flight – 1st Class, of course!

      News Update: Gary Peacock lost
      Legendary jazz bassist Gary Peacock, who played alongside such greats as Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Paul Bley, and Albert Ayler, has died at the age of 85. He passed away peacefully of undisclosed causes at his home in upstate New York on September 4.

      • You are quite right sir!
        I remember reading an interview with Lou where he stated that he frequently listens to Blues Walk in his car. I thought that was kind of cool 😉
        I have tried to locate a stereo OG of Blues Walk for some time but not a common record to find. Did you also have a 2nd press? Liberty? How does that sound compared to the OG of you have it.

  3. I had the opportunity to listen to Lou Donaldson live at Lincoln Center ten years ago when we spent some days in New York. Unforgettable. One of the greatest.

  4. I’m going to nominate Swing & Soul for favorite Lou record. It doesn’t have the brand-name elegance of Blues Walk but it oscillates between groovy numbers (punctuated by Ray Barrett’s serious Latin percussion work) and lovely ballads. It’s one of my go-to discs as we head into autumn, when the days grow shorter and it gets darker earlier.

  5. My introduction to Lou Donaldson was during the Acid Jazz era with his more popular classics like “Hot Dog” and “Everything I play is Gonna be Funky,” which aren’t bad. “The Natural Soul” sits nicely between the recordings from his soul jazz prime and his 1500 series titles. “Blues Walk” is a favorite for sure, but I’m also a huge fan of “Swing & Soul” and “Lou Takes Off,” the later being my top favorite in his catalog due to the line-up and the lack of ballads, Lou ‘n his gang are cookin’ from the first to the last note. And that cover is dope too!

  6. “Blues Walk” is easily my favorite Donaldson as well, and by a wide margin. The later Muse stuff is quite good, I must say.

    • Like most “interface improvements”, their engineers take something which works perfectly well and we all know how to use,add a lot of functionality we don’t want, hide the functions we do want, and make a complete mess of the implementation. If you access a post via the published and draft listing, it brings up the old “classic” interface, but I still had problems with preview not updating, visual and text out of sync with the published version. Almost all Wordress “improvements” have to be worked around.

    • She was a member of a modeling company name The Grandassa Models. One of its founders was Kwame Braithwaite who is a relative of Blue Note multi-instrumentalist George Braith. George is the leader of Soulstream, Two Souls In One and Extension on the label. I believe that was how the initial connection with Blue Note was made to feature the Grandassa models on a number of Blue Note covers. Grandassa Models are featured on the covers at least The Natural Soul, Oh Baby, Brown Sugar and Good Gracious but perhaps some others as well. The Grandassa Models have a page on wikipedia and Facebook too I believe.

  7. Yep met Lou at the Jazz Cafe in 94 a true gent still have the signed BN lp and the photo I had taken with him on that day

  8. I’m a big fan of Lou. Some great stuff on Argo/Cadet, too. Saw him live with Dr. Lonnie Smith, one of my unforgettable concert experiences. He must be one of the last early Blue Note artists from the early 50’s who’s still around – or the last? “The next number is a be-bop number. Not suitable for fusion or con-fusion artists.”

    • Nobody can match Lou for longevity his first date as leader for BN was in 1952, of course his fellow nonagenarians Rollins & Haynes appeared as sidemen on a Bud Powell date from 49.

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