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February 26, 2009

Lou Donaldson / Bobby Hutcerson - LIVE!!!

Definitely the most exciting event (for me) of the festival was the chance to see Lou Donaldson and Bobby Hutcherson live at the Crystal Ballroom. This double billed event (with the exception of McCoy Tyner on the previous weekend) was the biggest highlight of earlier generation Blue Note artists.
Artistic Director of PDX Jazz, Bill Royston, introduced Lou Donaldson as he entered the stage with his organ quartet. A fine establishment of musicians consisting of Lou, the organ, drums and guitar. This was as close as one is going to get as to seeing a band with the same nature as say Grant Green or Jimmy Smith. Before playing their initial theme Lou introduced the band and started again with his humorous rants. "Today you are going to see jazz, not fusion, not confusion, but jazz," he would say, "not snoop doggie dog or 50 Cent who aint worth a quarter."

For me the highlight of his set was when he played Ray Noble's composition
Cherokee. While Donaldson played the melody and every harmonizing note around it, the group vamped the chords in support. I never quite heard it that way and it was one of the best interpretations of the tune that I have listened to. He also sang a couple blues pieces. One about a woman who drank a lot of whiskey and the other -- if I'm remembering the lyrics corectly -- about dreams and then reality having an ironic twist in opposition to the dreams. Both with clever puns and silly rhymes to match Lou's personality.

Before Bobby Hutcherson took the stage Howard Mandel came up to introduce him. Hutcherson didn't look too hot as he has been suffering from emphysema. Regardless of that, after a couple of compositions he certainly had gotten into the mode. Rather than the more technical, bebop and soul jazz stylings of Lou's set (and there wasn't anything non-technical about Hutcherson's), his was more physical and throught provoking. Definitely allowing the audience to have a more transcendent experience. The highlight for me was when Hutcherson played Coltrane's
Spiritual. Seeing a legend who had recording amazing albums for Blue Note play one of my favorite Coltrane compositions was an exceptional delight. And he played it good, really good.

It was a great festival this year. It's hard to say if it was better than last years giving my awesome experience with my favorite, Ornette Coleman; but I guess you can't compare the two. Alls I know is that festivals with headliners like this are going to become more and more rare. I also have to give a shout out to the Operations Director of PDX Jazz, Brad Nelson, who was gracious enough to supply me with a couple of tickets to this event.

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