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*Lou Donaldson was born on this date in 1926. He is a Black jazz alto saxophonist.
Louis Donaldson was born in Badin, North Carolina. He started playing the saxophone at 15; he attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro in the early 1940s. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was trained at the Great Lakes bases in Chicago, where he was introduced to bop music in the lively club scene. At the war's conclusion, he returned to Greensboro, where he worked club dates with the Rhythm Vets, a combo composed of A and T students who had served in the U.S. Navy. The band recorded the soundtrack to a musical comedy featurette, Pitch a Boogie Woogie, in Greenville, North Carolina, in the summer of 1947.
Donaldson's first jazz recordings were with the Charlie Singleton Orchestra in 1950 and then with bop emissaries Milt Jackson and Thelonious Monk in 1952. He participated in several small groups with other jazz luminaries such as trumpeter Blue Mitchell, pianist Horace Silver, and drummer Art Blakey. In 1953, he recorded sessions with the trumpet virtuoso Clifford Brown and Philly Joe Jones. He was a member of Art Blakey's Quintet and appeared on some of their best-regarded albums, including the two albums recorded at Birdland in February 1954, Night at Birdland.
He was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame on October 11, 2012. Also, in 2012, he was named an NEA Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. He is best known for his soulful, bluesy approach to playing the alto saxophone, although in his formative years, as many were of the bebop era, he was heavily influenced by Charlie Parker.