Denise Donatelli is an Allentown native and Parkland High School graduate whose past two albums have been nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. She performs Nov. 21 at Kutztown University and Nov. 22 at Lehigh University's Zoellner Arts Center.
Since her days growing up in a rural area of South Whitehall Township, losing herself in records her sister bought through a mail-order club, Denise Donatelli's love has been jazz.
That was even more true as Donatelli entered the world of jazz singing and recording, leaving a position as marketing manager for Turner Broadcasting Network's TBS in Atlanta to follow her musical muse.
But that's not the case with Donatelli's pianist, arranger and accompanist Geoffrey Keezer, who has toured with musical luminaries such as David Sanborn, Chris Botti and Christian McBride.
I usually just listen to jazz and R&B, and very little rock," Donatelli says in a telephone call from Los Angeles, where she now lives. But his musical knowledge and musical tastes range from Rush to rock to classical to just about everything. He's got a very broad range of musical knowledge. He's just creative and imaginative, and he's not stuck in one genre of music — he's not just stuck in jazz."
And so for Donatelli's 2010 album When Lights Are Low," and especially for her most recent disc, 2012's Soul Shadows," Keezer took songs not born out of the jazz genre" and gave them jazz treatments and instrumentation for her to sing, Donatelli says.
He's taking these pop songs and just turning them into beautiful jazz arrangements," she says. He does wonders with them — he completely re-harmonizes and just makes great jazz music out of them. So I'm blessed to have been working him."
The results bear that out. Both those discs got Grammy Award nominations for Best Jazz Vocal Album, and the first got Keezer a nomination for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist.
Donatelli and Keezer will display the fruits of their collaboration in rare area appearances: Thursday at a master class in Kutztown University's Schaeffer Auditorium and Friday in two performances at Lehigh University's Zoellner Arts Center.
When Lights are Low" was on The Jazz Week Radio Chart for 23 weeks, peaking at No. 2, then six months later returned to the chart for seven more weeks.