After decades of neglect by the media (she is not even listed in Grove's Dictionary of Jazz), pianist Dorothy Donegan is finally being discovered.
But at age 68.
What took her so long?
Perhaps Donegan, who's appearing nightly through Sunday at Catalina, had to shed the visual antics on which critics and audiences tended to concentrate. In her opening night set on Wednesday, she began with an obscure, exquisite Billy Strayhorn tune, "Lotus Blossom," which she neglected to announce, though its natural beauty came across in her florid yet sensitive elaboration.
The next hour consisted of a typically unpredictable series of standard tunes. Bass player Jon Burr had to keep alert to figure out whether the next tune might be "The Shadow of Your Smile" or "Here's That Rainy Day," or perhaps "Sweet Lorraine," which was easy to identify because she played the original Nat King Cole introduction.
Slashing, smashing and crashing her way through "Green Dolphin Street" and "Makin' Whoopee," Donegan came across as a consummate artist, even when she embarked on a tongue-in-cheek history of jazz that included impressions of gospel, Scott Joplin, George Shearing and Erroll Garner.
Her companions, who work with her more or less regularly, were bassist Burr, who had a couple of splendid solos, and drummer Ray Mosca, who took a tasteful chorus on brushes in "Will You Still Be Mine."
Significantly, the two men had smiles on their faces throughout the set. They were not alone. Donegan is one of the few piano virtuosos who can bring together creativity and entertainment in one irresistible package.