Lou Donaldson – Lush Life – Blue Note

by | Mar 14, 2007 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Lou Donaldson – Lush Life – Blue Note 0946 3 74214 2, 35:13 (1980/2006) *****:

(Lou Donaldson, alto sax; Jerry Dodgion, alto sax, flute; Wayne Shorter, tenor sax; Pepper Adams, baritone sax; Freddie Hubbard, trumpet; Garnett Brown, trombone; McCoy Tyner, piano; Ron Carter, bass;  Al Harewood, drums)

Originally recorded in 1967 and slated for release that year, Lou Donaldson’s Lush Life somehow got lost in the Blue Note catalogue and wasn’t released until 1980 in Japan, under the name Sweet Slumber.  Five years later it was released by Blue Note as a lost session, and now we have its Rudy Van Gelder remaster. The remastered sound is richer in many places, especially with regards to the drums, which are louder and more prominent in the mix than on the previous issue. Quite noticeable is the hiss and crackle from the transfer of the original test pressing onto a new master since the old one was lost (You can hear it on the original issue too, but it’s not as noticeable as on the remaster). [Probably used some more recent audio restoration software on it…Ed.] Whether you find the noise charming or irritating is up to you.

Sweet Slumber, the first track, has a seductive main theme that Donaldson plays beautifully. He’s followed by tenor sax great Wayne Shorter, who solos like he knows we’re just dying to hear the main chord progression again, but he’s going to make us wait as he dances around the main notes. When trumpeter Freddie Hubbard comes in, he too dances around the main theme, going high when he should go low and vice versa. McCoy Tyner’s solo is closest to the song’s melody and the sweetest release from Shorter and Hubbard’s darting around the infectious melody.

You’ve Changed is almost all Donaldson, with decorating swells of trumpet and trombone. Donaldson’s solo is bittersweet and aching, and along with the background horns, creates quite the romantic sound. The Good Life has a beautiful melody that sounds like the theme to one of Hitchcock’s more romantic thrillers. The tone of Jerry Dodgion’s flute is gorgeous and wistful and Tyner’s piano playing is perfectly delicate. On Stardust, Donaldson’s tone is almost shimmering, while Hubbard and trombonist Garnett Brown play so smooth it makes me think of smoke slowly rising from a gangster moll’s cigarette in a film noir.

By focusing on ballads (apparently at the recommendation of house arranger Duke Pearson), Donaldson and his all-star group allow the true lushness of the compositions chosen to shine through.

TrackList: Sweet Slumber, You’ve Changed, The Good Life, Star Dust, What Will I Tell My Heart, It Might As Well Be Spring, Sweet and Lovely.

– Daniel Krow

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