“Dorothy Donegan: Pandemonium” is a DVD released during
2008 under the Arkadia label. It contains two performances from
1981, which were originally released by the View Video label.
These were two episodes from a 1980’s series, “Ad Lib,”
which was devoted to Jazz and hosted by Jazz pianist
and arranger, Phil Moore.
Ms. Donegan (1922-1998) was featured on both episodes,
while sharing billing with vocalist, Spanky Wilson (1947 – ), on
one episode and with trombonist, Buster Cooper (1929 – ),
on the remaining one. Joined by a second unnamed pianist,
bassist John Heard (1938 – ) and drummer Jimmie Smith
(1938 – ), this “house band” provided fine backup support to
Ms. Donegan, who also performed in an accompanying capacity
While this disc gives her top billing, each of these episodes
appear to be musical potpourri, with a running time of only
25 minutes each. Ms. Donegan was an amazing pianist,
displaying an effortless technique which was reminiscent of
that of her one-time mentor, Art Tatum (1909-1956).
Perhaps due to her penchant for performing “lounge” music,
the Jazz community did not give Ms. Donegan the recognition
she justly deserved. In fact, she’s not mentioned in the 1995
edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, which I consider
to be an egregious oversight.
Prior to watching this disc, I was unaware of Spanky Wilson’s
career, and apart from some decent scatting skills, I was less
After 1962, Buster Cooper played for a while with
Duke Ellington’s band. On this disc, he appeared to prioritize
exhibiting his “chops,” as a trombonist. I would have preferred
an emphasis on tone versus speed.
The picture quality on this disc was a bit grainy, which could be
attributed to a bad transfer from the videotapes. I’m glad
to experience Ms. Donegan’s talents; however, I can only give
this disc an overall half-hearted recommendation. Nevertheless,
it’s clear that Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981) and
Nina Simone (1933-2003) weren’t the only great female
Jazz pianists of that era!