Two years ago, Jordan "Chili Sauce" Donald came to our attention via TSU faculty member Dr. Horace Alexander Young and the great jazz pianist Joe Sample of Crusaders fame. Donald was one of the soloists in Sample's select orchestra, and even college president John Rudley, an avid jazz fan, mentioned Donald when I spoke with him about outstanding students in the TSU jazz program.
A few days later I witnessed Donald sit in with some of Houston's best players, seasoned veterans like pianist Darrell Lavigne and Horace Alexander Young, at Café 4212. He grabbed the crowd by the ears if not the throat with long, blistering, sexy sax solos. Chili sauce, indeed. I was sold.
In an interview at that time, Donald's two main goals were to graduate and then move to Los Angeles and get into the West Coast jazz scene. Two years later, he's still here in Houston, gigging with all kinds of people doing everything from straight jazz to funk to blues. But Wednesday night, Donald comes to Under the Volcano for the first time as leader of his own mystery ensemble that he says will "lay the funk on heavy."
While he is primarily a saxophonist, Donald also sings and plays vocoder, guitar, and about any other instrument he decides will fit the scheme of things.
Originally from Baton Rouge, Donald moved to Houston in 1998, although he did spend some time in California. And he hasn't given up on the moving to California dream.
"I'm actually planning to move out there later this year," says Donald. "I don't have anything solid lined up, but I'm at the age where I can do it because I really don't have any responsibilities or commitments to keep me here. And it's something I've always wanted to do.
"The natural beauty and the weather are just elements I find very appealing about the West Coast," he continues. "And they have a thriving jazz scene out there and I know a few people. It's just an adventure, you know. You've got to do your adventures while you're young."
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While this will be one of his first gigs as bandleader, Donald works constantly around town. He and pianist Britney Bloom, another former member of the Sample orchestra, have a trio called Nebula that gigs regularly at places like Phil and Derek's. But one of his favorite current projects is working with Cora Coleman-Dunham, the drummer for Prince and Beyonce.
As for his set Wednesday night, Donald promises something for everyone. He describes it as "very Roger Troutman-like."
"It's a very funky set list that includes modern stuff like 'Latch' by Disclosure, but we'll also do some of the '80s stuff like Phil Collins," he says. "We can go back further than that, things like "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," older material. So I think it's a good mix of eras and styles that everyone can get something from."
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