1 November 1926, Badin, North Carolina, USA. Donaldson started on clarinet but, while playing in a band in the US Navy alongside Willie Smith and Clark Terry, he switched to alto saxophone. In the early 50s he was in New York, playing with Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, Blue Mitchell, Art Blakey and other leading jazzmen. In 1954 he and Clifford Brown joined Blakeys Jazz Messengers. During the 60s and 70s Donaldson toured extensively, usually as leader of a small band, playing concerts and festivals in the USA and Europe. He recorded prolifically for Blue Note Records, producing a number of excellent soul jazz albums, including Alligator Boogaloo. During this period, Donaldson made some stylistic changes, experimenting with an R&B-inflected style, soul jazz and jazz funk; by the 80s he was back in a hard bop groove, where his striking technique and inventiveness assured him of a welcome place on the international circuit. Donaldson has often been passed over by jazz critics as his soul-honking style was seen as too simplistic. In the new millennium, his classic Blue Note output is seen as one of the peaks of groove and riff-laden soul jazz.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.