All About Jazz

Janelle Donovan: Valentine Special

Jazz vocalist Janelle Donovan pays homage to Valentine's Day with new EP

Published: 2012-02-13

Love is in full bloom on jazz vocalist Janelle Donovan's latest EP, Valentine Special. True to its title, the two tracks on this release celebrate romance in its purest form, reflecting the unrestrained, sweetly-scented confessions of affection that are associated with the 14th of February. But Donovan delivers more than just carve straight-shooting arrows for Cupid's bow; these are love songs that can be savored at any time of the year, with or without a bouquet of roses and a box of chocolates.

It helps that neither of the tracks sound like each other. On “I Love Your Face," Donovan's velvety croon caresses the heart with the warm touch of a whisper in the dark. Her voice seems to glide across the crystalline piano playing; they both sparkle like diamonds. The gorgeous melodies of “I Love Your Face" are intoxicating. It has a timeless yet classic appeal that people might mistake for a song of real vintage. However, according to Donovan, the track “evolved from a snippet of melody and lyrics that I rediscovered in my archives."

As a stylistic shift from the smooth vocal jazz of “I Love Your Face," the second cut “(Searching searching) Ev'ry Day" takes a slightly more aggressive approach. Here Donovan exerts power with her singing; it is rich and brimming with strength while conveying true longing. The tune rides on a funky rhythm as well, help fueled by fiery sax. There is substantial passion in these tracks, enough to light up the nights of lovers beyond Valentine's Day.

The Record, Troy, New York

Janelle Donovan Has The Holiday Spirit

By Don Wilcock  for The Record, Troy, New York             Merry Christmas!

          “Should I be politically correct about this,” asks Janelle Donovan who’s just put out an album called Christmas Eyes? On the cover she smiles like a Cheshire cat dressed in red and surrounded by mistletoe and snow flakes. The packaging is all politically correct and generic, but the message is Christmas with a capital C. “Happy holidays” may be all encompassing, but the Janelle’s heart is bursting with a very specific Christian message.

      “There are a lot of traditions going on this time of year,” explains this former Capital Region performer who now lives in California. “We have a huge global audience right now. So I certainly want to be as inclusive as I can, but I do love to say Merry Christmas.”

          The album does just that. Half the songs, including “Christmas Love,” were recorded in 2001 with guitarist and bass player Joe Mele and keyboardist Tony Perrino at Perrino’s studio. The other half was recorded on the West Coast with violinist Mark Cargill and keyboardist Greg Cook.

          One of the new songs, “Dancing Around the Tree with Santa” was inspired by a little girl in Janelle’s family. “She was two years old last Christmas and just the song in her heart made her prance about like a little reindeer. From her prancing is where I got the rhythm for the song. I just thought about how much fun she’d have if Santa actually showed up and could join her.”

          “Christmas Eyes” offers a yuletide answer to the pain and suffering in a world reeling from economic hardship. “I was looking around me and noticing that everybody was feeling financial stress, and my hope was I really believe people in their hearts already know this about what’s important and about what’s really something worth treasuring in their life. That is their loved ones and the times they have together.”

She was inspired to write the song by watching the news on TV which has become a blame game. “I can’t feel very spiritual or very loving or connected if I’m embroiled in resentment and in trying to find people to blame. To be honest with you one of the people I was thinking of who seemed to get a lot of heat from the blame was President Obama. I was thinking about him and just how difficult it must be to hold up under all of that pressure from the first minute he walked into office.”

Janelle is a multiple Northeast Country Music Association award winner locally for her collaborative efforts with Tony Perrino and Joe Mele.  She’s just as proud of her relationship with Mark Cargill and Greg Cook, pointing specifically to her scatting performance on “Good King Wenceslas.” “I looked at Mark with the headphones on my head, and he said, ‘Try some scatting at the end.’ I looked at him and said, ‘I can’t do it. Last time I did it, people laughed at me. People made fun of me.’ He said, ‘No, no, you can do it. I believe it. You can do it.’ It was very powerful to have him believe in me.”

Janelle’s Christmas spirit is pervasive and not merely a seasonal smile she turns on but rather a gift for the entire calendar. Past efforts have included Monahan’s Old Truck, a CD featuring interviews with fire fighting vets of 9/11 where proceeds went to the fallen firefighters’ families. She’s also does private tutoring for children with cerebral palsy and brain damage. “I get really enthusiastic responses. Music doesn’t feel like work to them suddenly. Just like for myself, it feels like a hot fudge sundae.

“Despite some of their many limitations they put a tremendous amount of effort forth working with a melody line or to use an old familiar melody and create lyrics to it. I’ve had some great moments in my life with those kids doing that.”

Janelle plans to put out a jazz album in the spring. Again, half of the project is with Tony and Joe and half with Mark and Greg. Neither pair has actually met each other, and Janelle feels like she’s got one foot in the east and one in the west. She admits she’s homesick for the northeast and says it’s her brother who works in TV in California who convinced her to move out there. As a child she used to follow him around everywhere.

“When he and his friends were playing Army, I wanted to join him and be a soldier, but he told me to go sit in the barn and be the nurse and wait for the wounded, but nobody ever showed up. I fell asleep in that barn waiting for the wounded.”

That should have been a clue right there.

“I guess so,” she laughs. “I used to try and play football with him and his friends, and I was so little the only thing I could do was jump on his friends’ back and hang there.”

See the video for “Christmas Eyes” on YouTube.



“We have a huge global audience right now. So I certainly want to be as inclusive as I can, but I do love to say Merry Christmas.”




Don Wilcock

Editor-in-chief - BluesWax

Editor-in-chief - FolkWax

Contributing Editor - Blues Revue

Music writer - Troy Record

2008  The Blues Foundation's Keeping The Blues Alive in Print Journalism Award


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UK FAB Radio

Pete Smith, UK, FAB Radio on December 10, 2010, 11:09 pm

“The Advertiser”  (UK) 3 December 2010 

As Christmas gets ever nearer I have a couple more seasonal albums for your consideration.

“Christmas Eyes” (Comstock) by Janelle Donovan may not be entirely country but I do love it because it is different. “Dancing Round The Tree With Santa” features a hot fiddle player and there is a bluegrass version of “Go Tell It On The Mountain” but it is the jazz version of “Good King Wencelas” that caught my attention. Also included are two versions, vocal and instrumental, of “Silent Night” and a rare cover of the old standard “Count Your Blessings”. Remember there are stars in the southern sky. 


Évidemment, les victimes, leurs familles, les sauveteurs auraient à objecter sur l’effet de réel. Le disque de quatre plages consacré à l’événement par Janelle Donovan (en compagnie de Tony Perrino, Joe Mele et Tom Murphy)12 est ainsi au plus près du terrain. Cet enregistrement de circonstance (dont les recettes d’exploitation seront reversées aux fonds ouverts au profit des familles des pompiers de New York victimes des attentats) évoque la cendre chaude sur les vêtements et les cheveux, le sacrifice humain des sauveteurs, le travail sur les ruines. When ladder 5 come through the door propose le témoignage d’outre-tombe, par l’une des victimes, de la mort des onze firemen qui, désobéissant à l’ordre d’évacuation, ont tenté de sauver une femme assise sur un fauteuil roulant : « In shaking walls and crumbling glass / They stayed with me until the last / And the last thing I could clearly see / Was a fireman trying to cover me ». Monahan’s old blue truck évoque le retour de leurs compagnons vers les ruines dans un vieux pick up fourni par l’un des leurs, pour rechercher les disparus. Si à son tour, la musicienne se réfère aux couleurs du drapeau, ce n’est pas comme Keith dans l’exhibition d’un étendard guerrier. C’est le recours au premier emblème auquel se rallier, quand il ne reste que ruines et désolation : « Blue is the colour of loyalty / And blue is the colour they rode / Red is the blood from the hands that dug / And white buckets carried the load ». Dans ce monde de souffrance et rédemption, la musicienne égrène ces mots avec sa voix si caractéristique : suave quand elle est maintenue dans le registre medium, aigre dès la montée à l’aigu, rêche lorsque le haut de la tessiture est associé à un léger forçage de l’émission. Ce ralliement à la bannière (ou la Cloche du souvenir qui retentit onze fois) doit être pris comme le God bless America que les personnages entonnent spontanément dans les dernières images de The deer hunter (Cimino), dérisoire ciment communautaire lorsque tout se fissure. De quoi contredire Lorca, qui voyait en New York le symbole de l’absence de toute fraternité (« mundo de ríos quebrados y distancias inasibles »13).

Si Janelle Donovan dit l’ici et maintenant du drame, Bruce Springsteen, dans une perspective consolante et une élévation mythique, rejoindrait plutôt la manière d’un William Styron, y compris dans l’emphase, par sa tentative d’exorciser le mal14. L’image sacrificielle de la disparition (Into the fire : « The sky was falling and streaked with blood / I heard you calling me, then you disappeared into the dust / Up the stairs, into the fire »),Obviously, the victims, their families, the rescuers would have to object on the effect of reality

European CMA


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