Vocalist Roberta Donnay turned the swank Bel Air nightclub into a Roaring 20s speakeasy as she brought back the music and moxie from the Golden Age of jazz with her Prohibition Mob of Danny Green/p, Justin Grinnell/b and Michael Barsimanto/dr. As she’s displayed on her two albums, Ms Donnay’s allegiance is to the easy and accessible two beat swing of Tin Pan Alley, the kind that Al Capone might have enjoyed after a night of going out with the boys.
Dressed like she just stepped out of a George Raft film, complete with blue feather in her hair, Donnay mixed the vamp of Elvira with the pitched woo of Betty Boop on a two step stomping take of “Why Don’t You Do Right” while making you feel like you are part of a Max Fleischer film as she coo-ed to Green’s easy swing on “Fare Thee Well.” Her fun and sassy voice transplanted you to 1933 as she hearkened to the day of contemporaries like Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters and Ma Rainy as she mixed camp, vaudeville and Gatsby as Barsimanto provided plenty of chick-a-boom on Throw Your Heart Over The Fence.” She even acted out her role at times as the trio delivered a honky tonking back beat on the ribald and bluesy “One Monkey Don’t Stop The Show.” The evening could easily be thought of as tongue in cheek, but Donnay exhibited a deceptively wide range as well as control of dynamics during the closing tunes that included a genteel and lilting take of “Rockin’ Chair” and a reflective and flowing intro with Green on “You Go To My Head” that mixed the Coolidge years with West Coast Cool. The celebration of music from the years of Marconi had Ms. Donnay and company show that you can move forward sometimes by looking back.
Upcoming shows at Vibrato include Lisa Hilton May 17 and Chuck Manning w/ Steve Huffsteter May 28
JAZZ WEEKLY: Roberta Donnay & the Prohibition Mob@Vibrato 05.12.15