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Denise Donatelli and Geoffrey Keezer at the Douglas Beach House, Half Moon Bay, CA

Bill Leikam By

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Denise is quickly becoming one of today's top jazz vocalists. —Bill Leikam
Denise Donatelli and Geoffrey Keezer
Douglas Beach House
Half Moon Bay, California
Sunday, August 9, 2009

Arriving at the Douglas Beach House after performing at the San Jose Jazz Festival, up and coming Los Angeles-based jazz vocalist Denise Donatelli brought with her a stellar jazz quartet featuring pianist Geoffrey Keezer on piano, bassist Hamilton Price, Duncan Moore on drums, and saxophonist/flutist Bob Sheppard on an array of reeds. Her performance was based on her latest newest CD album release on Savant Records "Denise Donatelli: What Lies Within" arranged by Geoffrey Keezer. The album, a collection of jazz classics and Keezer's original arrangements, is as fresh and alive as the sunlit Sunday afternoon on Half Moon Bay with dolphins cavorting in the waves just offshore.

Soaring on the wings of this album, her second, Donatelli is quickly becoming one of today's top jazz vocalists. She opened the late afternoon with her song "Sails." Afterward she said, "That was fun singing that song while looking out at the ocean." The packed audience at the Douglas Beach House responded with a warm welcome. As her performance unfolded, it became obvious that this woman is unique in style and tone. No two songs were the same. Each "tested" her with a new style: from scat to rapid fire lyrics, to a sensually smooth, easy-going, expressive ballad. Without a fault, her remarkable abilities, her range and her precise articulation of each word graced the intimate boutique setting. The performance was refreshing.

Donatelli has one of those voices that will age well like a fine vintage wine. She surrounds herself with some of our top jazz musician—for instance, Keezer who uses his piano as a percussive instrument, knocking out the tunes with the eagerness of an explorer. Key to any jazz band is the drummer, and while many of today's jazz drummers have a tendency to overwhelm the rest of the group, Duncan Moore's contributions delicately maintained time without becoming obtrusive. Hamilton Price on acoustic bass sustained the melodic idea well with some inventive solos while the inimitable Bob Sheppard on saxophones and flute had an uncanny way of coming in with impeccable precision and with imaginative flurries that balanced nicely with the group.

By the time the evening drew to a close, the sophisticated jazz audience was mesmerized with what it had just heard. Before her last number Donatelli said, "This is by far the best venue I've ever played. You're so lucky." When asked why we were so lucky, she replied, "Because, just look at it: You have the ocean right out there and an intimate setting where the audience and the band are almost one. This is unique to say the least." The featured artist was relaxed all the way through her performance—not like some performers who feel the need to push onward through song after song. When the last song came to its end, the audience gave her and her band a standing ovation. She is certainly a jazz singer we are going to hear a lot more from for decades to come.

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