"I'd like to come back and live in Washington, I think," says Chicago-born and-raised Dorothy Donegan. "I think Washington is more cultural and I think it has more class. L.A. is so square, you know, 12-by-12." The 62-year-old Donegan, who was playing Chicago rent parties in her early teens, has been cited by many critics as the second most skilled keyboardist in jazz piano history (first place having been won hands down four decades ago by her friend and mentor Art Tatum). Donegan will perform solo and as part of a trio for the Charlin Jazz Society on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Temple Sinai. Tommy Cecil will be on bass, Warren Shadd at the drums.
Donegan is notorious for working up such a head of steam as she digs into blues and stomping stride that many in her audiences leap to their feet and shout for joy. Her Kennedy Center performance at the 1982 Kool Jazz Festival created a gridlock of awe-struck observers as she mixed Rachmaninoff with gospel and boogie-woogie.
Donegan has been "swinging the classics" as part of her act since her long 1940s run at New York's Embers (she moved to Los Angeles in the '50s), and no doubt she'll be offering some on this D.C. visit. But Donegan is also an accomplished interpreter of classical music, and her Saturday program will include several selections straight. "They won't go through the swamp," she says.