Dorothy Donegan ‘Four Classic Albums’ 2CD (Avid Jazz) 4/5

dorothy-doneganThe name of Dorothy Donegan will probably be unfamiliar to many and, like other women jazz musicians of the 1950s and 1960s, their contribution has never been fully appreciated, which is why this re-issue fills in an important gap in our knowledge base. Here. the four albums focus mainly on the live recordings of Donegan and this was unquestionably her forte, recording numbers from the great American songbook in small supper clubs, interspersed with her own highly individual compositions. Influenced by Art Tatum on the jazz side and the virtuosic talents of Earl Wild from a classical perspective, Donegan was a more spontaneous pianist who followed an unpredictable career path. Capable of producing a powerful sound that few pianists could match, there are echoes of both early Cecil Taylor and McCoy Tyner with a symphonic quality to the chords she was able to strike up. Her own compositions such as ‘D.T.T.’ and the uptempo vehicle, ‘Donegan walk’, reveal a profound love of boogie-woogie and this should come as no surprise since Donegan would have grown up in her native Chicago listening to the sounds of Big Maceo among others. Of the standards, a deeply percussive reading of ‘That old black magic’ impresses as does a truly swinging rendition of ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’. Dorothy Donegan is at her most Tatum-esque on pieces such as ‘This can’t be love’. As ever with Avid re-issues excellent value for money time-wise with four albums squeezed onto the two CDs and full back cover information. It should be stated that the vivid re-mastering of the liver performances adds a poignant vibrancy to the listening experience. Dorothy Donegan rightly belongs among the very greatest of post-war jazz musicians and this writer looks forward to further releases of her excellent, if unevenly distributed output.

Tim Stenhouse