Roberta Donnay: Blossom-ing

While evincing her own way of phrasing, US singer sounds, in an effective tribute to one of her inspirations, remarkably like Blossom Dearie


Here are 16 tracks here of hardy standards and lesser-known popular tunes all associated with the late Blossom Dearie. Roberta Donnay appears to be Blossom’s number one fan, and she proves it with her interpretations. The voice is so close to Blossom’s that you might even think you are listening to the original at times. The singer does have her own unique way of phrasing though, so it is not all copied work.

First up is Roberta’s Blues. It used to be Billie Holiday’s until Blossom adapted it, so it has been around. Ms Donnay puts in a solid blues vocal here, enhanced by the lightly swinging rhythm section and a tidy piano solo from Mike Greensill. The pianist deserves credit for much of the success of this album functioning, as he does, as accompanist, soloist and arranger. He is with Roberta in tight support throughout the programme.

Peel Me A Grape is another successful blues-style track with the vocalist on good form, singing the tongue in cheek lyrics with a measure of humour. Someone To Watch Over Me is a swinger, as is If I Were A Bell, with strong contributions from piano, guitar and bass and the singer coming across confidently. Some of these tracks have the drummer laying out but he can barely be heard on the ones he does play on. The otherwise well-recorded sound has the drums toned down to a whisper on all but two pieces.

Roberta says on the liner that she began listening to jazz in the 1960s but only caught up with Blossom much later. Whether or not the little girl voice comes naturally to Roberta Donnay I can’t say, but she certainly makes the most of the material, is well supported by the combo and swings with the best of them. It’s all well done except for reservations about the recording of the full rhythm section.

Roberta’s Blues; Peel Me A Grape; Just One Of those Things; Inside A Silent Tear; Plus Je T’Embrasse; Someone To Watch Over Me; Moonlight Savings Time; A Paris; The Party’s Over; If I Were A Bell; Spring In Manhattan; Unless It’s You; You Fascinate Me So; I Wish You Love; It Amazes Me; Put On A Happy Face (51.47)
Donnay (v) with, collectively: Mike Greensill (p); Ruth Davies (b); Mark Lee (d); Jose Neto (g); David Sturdevant (hca); MB Gordy (pc). California, 15 & 16 March 2022.
Village Jazz Café 2502