Despite all of her mischievous, little-girl affectations, there is something quite regal about Dorothy Donegan, the pianist-singer who opened a four-night engagement at the Catalina Bar & Grill Thursday night.
During her nearly two-hour opening set, Donegan displayed great authority as she played a series of tunes from the standard repertoire. Yet, her serious approach to the piano was offset by her vocals, most of which she performed in a variety of imitative styles, and her witty asides, frequently delivered as she would reach a pinnacle of pianistic achievement.
One can't help but wonder where she got this approach to entertaining. And one can't help but hope that there's still some left over for others to get.
In a word, Donegan was delightful.
Too infrequently, entertainment and jazz don't mix, but Donegan, with all the accouterments of a career spent working lounges and small nightclubs, has mastered a method that doesn't shortchange the music.
Accompanied by drummer Paul Humphries and bassist Al McKibbon, Donegan delved deep to the roots of jazz to emit the sounds of gospel and the blues in an outing that began as "Summertime" and ended as "Georgia." Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" was played with grace and style. She even managed to make "Satin Doll" enjoyable, though not as much so as Juan Tizol's "Caravan."
Fun and phrasing have picked up where Donegan's vocal abilities have slackened, but her renditions of "Bill Bailey" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" were good. A reading of Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child" was gorgeous, as was her solo piano outing on "My Funny Valentine."
Donegan's visits are too infrequent, her stays too short, as she is an act not to be missed.