Born on February 12, 1904, in Princeton, New Jersey, Donald Lambert started his professional career at age ten in his home state, where he worked as a duo with Paul Seminole, half-Indian pianist who also played banjo and xylophone.
In the early 30s, The Lamb moved to New York City and played in Harlem clubs but, after his wife died, he returned to New Jersey, where he decided to settle down, inexplicably, to play on out of tune pianos in small clubs and taverns until the end of his life (the Star Bar on Halsey Street in Newark, the Town House Restaurant in Montclair and Wallace’s Bar on Washington Street in West Orange, New Jersey).
From time to time he showed up in New York unexpectedly to challenge other ticklers in cutting contests. These piano battles are part of the stride piano legend and the source of a large stream of anecdotes, and will be the subject of a future series on this blog.
For the time being, let’s get back to the facts, the few notices, reviews and advertisements mentioning him on the papers during the timeframe starting in the early 20s – when he was barely twenty years old – and ending in the 50s – before his appearance at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival alongside Eubie Blake and Willie The Lion Smith –.
Tracking down Donald Lambert comes out like an impossible task, due to his self-imposed obscurity. This is part of the scarce results of a quite exhaustive research through the digital archives of both local and national newspapers.
New York Age - November 4, 1922
"Trenton, N.J. - (...) On October 25 there was a surprise party given by Miss Helen Dillon in honor of Miss Mary Dillon's 18th birthday at 71 West End avenue (...). Music was furnished by Donald Lambert".
New York Age - July 21, 1923
"Princeton, N.J. - Master Donald Lambert is filling a position as pianist in Asbury Park".
New York Age - May 31, 1930
"Newark, N.J. - One of the New Jersey's finest social and artistic feats was presented last Wednesday night by the Beaux Arts Club in their second anual presentation at the Y.M. and Y.W. Hebrew Hall, High and West Kenney streets. The auditorium was crowded with a capacity gathering from all parts of the State (...). During the intermission and for the dance music was played by Donald Lambert's Orchestra".