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Too lively for a legend

Sentimental Journey
Sentimental Journey
By Lou Donaldson

Columbia Records: 1995

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This review first appeared in the May 19, 1995 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

Possessed of one of the sweetest tones on alto sax, veteran jazzman Lou Donaldson has turned in a first-rate new recording that makes a mockery of Columbia's "Legendary Pioneers of Jazz" series moniker this album is part of.

Forget the "legendary" label, okay? Donaldson is certainly that, but the word implies a certain dated quality, a lack of hipness that just does not apply in this case.

Joined by blues organist nonpareil Lonnie Liston Smith and conga player Ray Mantilla (along with a very solid rhythm section of guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Fukushi Tainaka), Donaldson gives some wonderful readings of standards like "What Now My Love" and "Sentimental Journey" that swing as joyously as anything the younger set is putting out.

The interplay between Smith and Donaldson is nearly psychic, the way the two old friends seem to –, no really to – know exactly what the other will do, and play off that passage as it's being played, building on each other's themes and ideas.

It's jazz. Modern jazz, played with a spirit and energy not seen often enough.