I will admit that when Don initially called me and said I just did something new for me, a Hammond B-3 organ date, and I really want you to write the liner notes," I kinda froze. When I recovered, I told him to send it to me so I could see what he was up to. I didn't tell Don that my last involvement with organ was two recordings I had the honor to produce and arrange for the legendary Jimmy Smith. Hearing that giant play your arrangements can spoil you for life! Jimmy's guitarist for those two dates was Mark Whitfield, himself a great young groove player. Previous to those two dates, my involvement with Jimmy had him teamed with another legend, guitarist Kenny Burrell. You really get spoiled working with artists of this caliber, and you certainly only want to be involved with strong artists on those instruments. Not being familiar with the work of either Barney McClure or Mimi Fox, I wasn't sure what to expect. After hearing the first few minutes of the opening track I knew Don was in good hands, and that I had found two musicians I look forward to meeting in person.
....After high school, Don headed off to Northwestern University in Chicago. He quit school and came to New York in 1948 with Johnny Bothwell to play two weeks at the Baby Grand on 125th Street in Harlem. Within two weeks he was deep into the jazz world, recording on jazz legend Fats Navarro's session. This band also included Max Roach. In 1949 Don did his own date for Prestige and used Fats and Max along with pianist Al Haig and bassist Tommy Potter. Pretty good accomplishments, wouldn't you say, for a 21 year old Tenor Saxophonist! Fortunately for me, Don's path eventually led him back to the state of Washington, where I had the good fortune to meet him when I was in high school. Don was encouraging to me and always had nice inspirational things to say whenever we got together. He was one of the judges when my college big band played in a jazz competition at the end of my term at Gonzaga University, and he encouraged me to take the big step and head for New York. We lost touch for a few years, but Don found me again (in New York) and we've been in touch ever since.
This is an amazing cat! He just seems to get stronger and stronger and more and more inventive. Sometimes I'd swear he was still 18 years old. But then he plays a ballad, and you know this is no teenager, this is a truly sensitive, mature artist. His years of musical and personal experience inform and enhance every note he plays. Keep it up, Don! Don Sickler Trumpet Player, Publisher, Arranger, Producer April 2000, New York City.