• Jonathan Widran

ROBERTA DONNAY, BLOSSOM-ing

For all its obvious shortcomings when it comes to fair artist compensation, Spotify offers a tantalizing opportunity to create a unique time-traveling musical opportunity when listening along to a magnificent tribute album like veteran ASCAP award winning vocalist Roberta Donnay’s cleverly titled BLOSSOM-ing!

More than a few times while taking in her exquisitely and eclectically arranged re-imaginings of a generous 16 gems from the multi-generational discography of the legendary Blossom Dearie, I found myself toggling back and forth, comparing the charming girlish gossamer of Donnay’s voice with Dearie’s on the same number. Not surprisingly, they were so delightfully close in tone and texture that it’s simply hard to imagine any other contemporary singer doing justice to the legacy of Dearie, who died in 2009.


Donnay set the stage for her tenth solo album with her tenure with The Prohibition Mob Band, which covered the music of the 20’s and 30’s with swing and sass. Her longtime friendship and collaborations with the late Bob Dorough, who played with Dearie, was also an essential piece to this sparkling puzzle.


Aside from Donnay’s intimate, inviting voice and the alternately delicate and lively ensemble work of six Northern California musical vets (most prominently, pianist Mike Greensill and bassist Ruth Davies), the journey through Dearie’s repertoire is essentially a romp through chestnuts from the Great American Songbook. Some of Donnay’s selections are very familiar (“Peel Me a Grape,” “Just One of Those Things,” “Someone To Watch Over Me,” “I Wish You Love”), while others are wonderfully obscure tunes from legendary composers (“Moonlight Savings Time,” “The Party’s Over,” “If I Were a Bell”).


While it’s joyful and thoughtful all the way through, nothing engages the senses and gets the shivers happening like Donnay’s gorgeous singing in French on the easy swinging “Plus Je T’embrasse” and eloquent “A Paris.” With a single word, she also cleverly refashions the saucy “Blossom’s Blues” to an opening mission statement titled “Roberta’s Blues.” The collection may not have been released in spring, but there’s plenty of glorious blossoming to be discovered.