Washington, DC – Dizzy Gillespie. Count Basie. Ella Fitzgerald. Herbie Hancock. Names of the greatest purveyors of America’s homegrown art form, jazz—and all National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters.
Like the 124 honorees who came before them, Lou Donaldson, a saxophonist, born in Badin was named a 2013 NEA Jazz Master, along with three other individuals: Mose Allison, Lorraine Gordon and Eddie Palmieri — all recognized for their lifetime achievements and significant contributions to the development and performance of jazz. They will each receive a one-time award of $25,000.
The 2013 NEA Jazz Masters class are all distinguished artists whose significant lifetime contributions have helped to enrich jazz and further the growth of the art form.
“Each of the 2013 NEA Jazz Masters has made an indelible mark on jazz as we know it today. Lou Donaldson has been a major force not just as a musician but also as a scout for new talent for the Blue Note label,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman.
The 85-year-old Donaldson is known for his distinctive blues-drenched alto saxophone. He began playing the clarinet at age nine, and by 15 was enrolled in North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, where he would later receive a BS degree. He was drafted into the United States Navy in 1945 and became a member of the Great Lakes Navy Band — which gave Donaldson the opportunity to play with older musicians such as Clark Terry, Ernie Wilkins, and Luther Henderson — playing both clarinet and alto saxophone.
Following his time in the Navy, Donaldson eventually moved to New York City in 1950 and attended the Darrow Institute of Music on the GI Bill but played at the clubs in Harlem at night. Charlie Parker was initially an influence on Donaldson’s sound, as he was on just about every saxophonist who followed him, but the younger musician eventually developed his own style.
His early work with trumpeter Clifford Brown is considered one of the first forays into hard bop, and his recordings with organist and NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Smith led to the groove-filled jazz of the 1960s and ‘70s.
Alfred Lion, co-founder of Blue Note Records, heard Donaldson playing and invited him to record for his label. First as a sideman with the Milt Jackson Quartet (later the Modern Jazz Quartet), Donaldson was instrumental in bringing Clifford Brown and Horace Silver to Blue Note, and made the recording with Art Blakey, Night at Birdland, considered one of the first in the hard bop genre.
Donaldson is the recipient of an honorary doctorate of letters from NC AT&T State University that also awards an annual scholarship in his name to the school’s most gifted jazz musician. He was also inducted into the International Jazz Hall of Fame in 1996, among other honors.
He will also be inducted in the N.C. Music hall of Fame in Concord on October 11, 2012. For more information visit: www.northcarolinamusichalloffame.org.
The NEA will again partner with Jazz at Lincoln Center to produce an awards ceremony and concert in honor of the 2013 NEA Jazz Masters, that will be webcast live on Monday, January 14, 2013 on arts.gov and jalc.org/neajazzmasters. The ceremony will also be simulcast on SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
The NEA has also created numerous resources as part of the NEA Jazz Masters program, including:
For more information visit: arts.gov/honors/jazz.