JAZZ TIMES - MARCH 2007
VOX REVIEW - by Christopher Loudon
After close to a half-century at the top of his game, venerable producer Orrin Keepnews now restricts himself to working with a small handful of artists, one of whom is vocalist Roberta Donnay. Keepnews has chosen well, and his timing is ideal, having united with Donnay at the professional juncture when the Grammy-nominated, ASCAP Award-winning singer-songwriter has decided to commit herself to her first love, jazz.
Though Donnay’s former pop-rock leanings (with their shades of Stevie Nicks) remain evident, particularly on a rough-and-tumble treatment of Al Jarreau’s “Put It Where You Want It,” it is obvious throughout these dozen tracks that she knows how to swing and can sell a ballad with the best of them. There’s an infectiously charismatic lilt to her “What’s Your Story, Morning Glory?”; an inviting hint of pending delight in her “Small Day Tomorrow”; an intoxicatingly sexy push-pull at the heart of her self-penned “Stop This Train!”; a marvelous bluesiness that invigorates Mose Allison’s whip-smart “If You Live”; and the blurry regret of her “Drinkin’ Again” can match June Christy’s “Something Cool” shot glass for shot glass. If What’s Your Story is indicative of Donnay’s musical future, then let’s all be grateful she’s thrown her hat into the jazz ring.
A Rising Star in Jazz
Vocalist Roberta Donnay is Rocking
the Jazz World
Roberta Donnay is a major new find. The fact that Orrin Keepnews produced her record is a tipoff, plus that her backup trio includes pianist Eric Reed with four guest appearances from tenor saxophonist Dave Ellis. Roberta has a very appealing voice somewhat reminiscent tone-wise of Norah Jones. However, she is much more of a jazz
singer than Jones, swinging, using subtle improvising, making some tunes quite bluesy and displaying versatility. What's Your Story is a very impressive effort, highly recommended. It makes one happy that Roberta Donnay has decided to pursue a jazz career.
- Scott Yanow, L.A. Jazz Scene
… Roberta Donnay is an exception. She covers such songs as Johnny Mercer's "Drinkin' Again," and Bob Dorough and Fran Landesman's "Small Day Tomorrow" in the same way that she covers her face in the photo on the cover of her album: with a wide brim. Her engagement with the lyrics, her supple sense of time and her soulful, little-girl timbre remind you of Billie Holiday. She is elegantly accompanied by the pianist Eric Reed and a discreet rhythm section.
- Mike Zwerin, Herald Tribune Intl.
"What's pleasing about Donnay's deconstructions is that she doesn't
merely open up these old timepieces. She shows us what made them tick."
"Donnay Pulls Jazz Up By Its Roots" - Mark Langton, Marin IJ
A phosphorescent presence on the stage.
- Tom Leopold, Arts & Entertainment
Not only does she have one of the most powerful voices in music, she also captures all eyes and ears.
- Art Jefferson, SF Art Magazine
At this specific point in my long professional life as a jazz record producer, I have chosen to limit my serious artistic involvements to only three performers. I am very pleased that one of them is Roberta Donnay!
[A]lthough enjoying success as a pop singer and producer, and as a songwriter with a substantial number of film and TV credits, Roberta [is] a full-fledged jazz singer.
- Orrin Keepnews, Jazz Producer
A gifted songwriter and dynamic vocalist, Roberta Donnay continues to break into new territory.
Donnay is proving herself time and time again as a consistent, dedicated vocalist and musician.
A PASSION FOR JAZZ
By the age of 16, Roberta Donnay frequented Washington, DC's night clubs working as a singer and performing songwriter.
Since then, Rainforest Records has released five original and one jazz album.
Her song "Crack In The Sidewalk" played over 80 stations nationwide. "Jody" made it onto the SXSW music and film festival's Women in Rock compilation album. FEMMUSIC voted her top 10 solo indie artist.
Donnay won ASCAP Composer Awards twice.
Back Before the Why (2005), featured on Top 12 Piks in Performing Songwriter Magazine, showcasing Donnay's dedication to the craft of songwriting, with songs like "Queen of Pain", "I Don't Want the Nite to End," and "Primal Whispers.
"Back Before The Why" won album of the month - musicdistributors.com.
Donnay has appeared at some of the world's most acclaimed music festivals, including the Monterey Jazz Festival in 2003.
Donnay's songs have been featured on film and television, from "Graffiti"in Close Encounters, to "Catch a Falling Angel" on TV's Nash Bridges. Other television music credits include One Life to Live, The Young & the Restless, That's Life, Days Of Our Lives, All My Children, NUMB3RS (vocals), The Unit (vocals) and Bravo.
Donnay's song, "One World" was adopted as a theme for the United Nations' 50th Anniversary and is frequently performed throughout five continents as a world peace anthem and as part of several major AIDS benefits.
NEW CD RELEASE
What's Your Story, Jazz Release (2006-2007) with legendary jazz producer Orrin Keepnews. Featuring Eric Reed, Dave Ellis, Gerald Cannon, Mark Taylor.
Keepnews received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2004 for his contributions to this truly American art form.
Currently, Donnay is active on the San Francisco board of governors of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
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