Lou Donaldson: Say It Loud!
“ Both 'Snake Bone' and 'Brother Soul' speak with a back beat rhythm that can ”
Although it was fun while it lasted, it seems that we might have seen the end of that whole acid jazz movement. At its height, labels were searching fast and furiously for lost trinkets of soul. Fantasy launched its Legends of Acid Jazz series and Blue Note had its Rare Groove series. At the core of the music though was an organ-based sound that proved to be very popular at the end of the 1960s. It might be surprising then that there are still some obscure items that somehow fell through the cracks, but it is nonetheless true.
A died-in-the-wool bopper, alto man Lou Donaldson clearly took his cue from the legendary Charlie Parker, but when modern fashions insisted that he “go with the flow,” he had no trouble adapting his straight forward approach to a groove-based format. The first record to really hit the mark was 1967’s Alligator Boogaloo, with Dr. Lonnie Smith and George Benson sharing the bandstand and the results decidedly on the funky side. What followed were records such as Midnight Creeper and Mr. Shing-a Ling where this methodology was further solidified.
Even though Blue Note has done a good job of maintaining Donaldson’s Blue Note catalog, somehow the 1968 set Say It Loud! has gotten lost in the shuffle and that’s a shame because its really of the same cloth as the previously mentioned groove classics. But don’t expect too much from this one, because the premise is still more about dancing to the beat than swinging hard. Some might even find Donaldson’s use of the electronic Varitone attachment just too dated for their tastes, but there’s more than enough substance to be found in the solid groove that a young Charles Earland lays down or in the bop-inflected solos of trumpeter Blue Mitchell.
Even with the undeniable flair that James Brown’s title track has for more than just jazz aficionados, it’s the pair of lengthy tracks on side two that make for the best listening. Both “Snake Bone” and “Brother Soul” speak with a back beat rhythm that can’t fail to get feet tappin’ and fingers snappin’. Guitarist Jimmy Ponder is particularly in his element, mixing Wes Montgomery-inspired octaves with a twangy blues flavor directly inspired by B.B. King. Earland, even at this early stage of the game, shows his talent for creating dramatic climaxes through the use of tension and release. In fact, Donaldson may be the least impressive of the fivesome and it’s his record. But I guess there’s something to be said for a degree of selfless leadership.
In a more traditional vein, there’s the bossa treatment of “Summertime” and a swinging romp through “Caravan.” In the end, nothing all that groundbreaking occurs, but this one will definitely put a smile on your face. And for completists, like myself, it’s nice to have this one sharing space with Donaldson’s other Blue Note gems.