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DONNA DEUSSEN: Bio

Donna Deussen ~ Jazz Vocalist

Donna Deussen’s singing has been praised for her “agile musicianship and wise good taste.” (John McDonough, writer for Downbeast).  A magna cum laude graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Donna began performing and recording with various pop/rock bands when she first moved to Los Angeles after graduation, before committing herself to the “art of jazz.”  She studied privately with Tierney Sutton, one of her many influences (along with Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, and Nancy Wilson, to name a few).

 Donna has been performing regularly throughout the southwestern U.S. for several years. Some of the many clubs where she has performed recently include: Beverly Hills Art Fair, Malibu Winery, Millenium Biltmore Hotel (downtown LA), Vitello's (Studio City), Whisper Lounge at The Grove, Cal Tech Summer Jazz Series (Pasadena), the Inn At Morro Bay, Tempe Arts Festival (AZ) 2007 & 2008, West Valley Art Museum (Surprise AZ), the Phoenician Hotel (Scottsdale AZ), and many more.  She has also worked as a session singer at several recording studios in the L.A. area, and can been heard on local radio commercials.  In addition, she run a teaching studio and is committed to helping other singers improve their vocal technique.

Donna Deussen has been collaborating with jazz guitarist Paul Weitz for the past few years, and they have recently completed their new co-produced CD, "On The Street Where You Live."  The CD features unique and exciting arrangements of pop and jazz standards and has begun to receive rave reviews. It features Matt VanBenschoten on bass, Gus Duffy on drums, Wayne Wayne on sax, and Geoff Nudell on clarinet & flute.

 “High Wire” is her debut album, released in 2003.  Backed by a killer band made up of some of Los Angeles’ finest musicians, the CD features 12 exciting arrangements of jazz and pop standards.  It features Mark Massey on keyboards, Aldo Bentivegna on drums, Anders Swanson on bass, and Eric Marienthal (of Chick Corea’s Elektric Band) on sax.

"ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE" CD Description:

Jazz Vocalist Donna Deussen has teamed up with guitarist Paul Weitz to record an exciting new CD, “On The Street Where You Live.”  Paul and Donna had been performing together for the past few years, and began coming up with their own unique arrangements of some familiar jazz and pop standards.  “Several of the arrangements came while sitting around Paul’s kitchen table, just throwing out ideas and experimenting with different sounds and rhythms,” says Donna.  “We’d just sit there and record different ideas on Paul’s little Zoom recorder, until something just sounded right.” They then brought the arrangements to the rest of Paul’s trio (Matt Van Benschoten, bass, and Gus Duffy, drums) who tweaked and honed the rhythm section sound. “We then approached Wayne Wayne, one of the great session sax players in L.A., to solo on a few tunes, and he blew us away with his ideas and his energy,” said Paul.  “Next we asked Geoff Nudell to come up with some solos on several other tunes, and his musicality and gorgeous lyrical sound he got from both the clarinet and the flute was amazing.”

The band recorded the album at DBW Studios in Woodland Hills, with engineer David Chamberlin.  “We couldn’t have done this CD without him,” says Donna.  “David is a master at recording vocals.  I love the sound he got for me.”

The first cut on the CD is California Dreamin'. This classic pop song has been covered by a variety of artists.  Donna had brought this song to Paul.  “He came up with the ¾ time idea, which completely turned it into a jazz tune,” Donna says. “Add in Wayne’s solo, and I think this might be my favorite song on the CD.”

Donald Fagan of Steely Dan wrote the second cut, called Do Wrong Shoes.  “This is the one tune on the CD that I don’t think audiences have heard before,” says Donna. “The only singer I’ve ever heard record it is Jackie Allen.  I’ve been singing it live for many years, and we knew we had to get this one on the CD.  Matt’s walking bass line at the beginning of the tune really does it for me.”

The third place on the album finds the title track, On The Street Where You Live. Gus Duffy’s sublime brush work is featured on this song, at a break-neck pace, along with Paul and Geoff trading fours during the solo section. 

Donna’s debut CD had featured a Joni Mitchell tune, River.  “I knew I wanted another Joni tune on this new CD,” says Donna.  “Both Sides Now was an arrangement I’d come up with years before, and Paul liked it enough to use as-is without much change from my original idea. However, this was a cut that almost didn’t make it onto the CD… until we came up with the idea to add background vocal layers to the second and third verses.  This gave it a really new feel, maybe more in a pop vein than jazz... but it stands out as one of the best songs on the album.”

Paul came up with the arrangement idea to mash Black Coffee with Night In Tunisia.  The result is a witty and completely unique arrangement, featuring Wayne Wayne on a blistering sax solo.

Fly Me To The Moon is a tune that has been recorded by many people including Frank Sinatra, who did it in 4/4.  Donna and Paul decided to try it in its original form, as a jazz waltz, and it worked. “This is an arrangement that we’d honed while performing live,” says Paul.  “It just felt easy and right, especially with Geoff’s clarinet solo.”  The same went for The Very Thought of You, again another old standard that many people have recorded.  “We felt our bossa nova rendition was somewhat unique, and Geoff’s soloing just made this a keeper.”

The classic Horace Silver song Sister Sadie gives Donna a chance to show off her blues chops, along with another Wayne Wayne gutsy sax solo.  “This was a really fun day in the studio,” says Donna. “The band just had a blast with this one, and I think you can hear that on the recording.”

The band pared back and went spare and sweet with the Harold Arlen song If I Only Had A Brain, using just guitar, vocals, and clarinet.  “This brings out the poignancy of the lyrics,” says Donna.  “Adding even one more instrument would have started to overwhelm the song.”

To close the album, the duo chose the Bill Evans classic Waltz For Debby. This was a Paul arrangement, and again features Geoff Nudell on a gorgeous clarinet solo.

The CD has been garnering excellent reviews, including C. Michael Bailey placing it on his list of the best CDs of 2014 in All About Jazz.

On The Street Where You Live” is available at various online music retailers, including I-Tunes, Amazon.com, and CDBaby.com