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Deanna Bogart Not Wasting a Minute PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Johanna Welzenbach-Hilliard   
Tuesday, 28 June 2005 18:00
Deanna Bogart’s first appearance at the Mississippi Valley Blues Fest five years ago was so successful that a local Davenport club whose name she can’t remember – but based on the general location and description, we think it might have been Boozie’s Bar & Grill – invited her to play a gig. She and her band gladly accepted.

When they arrived in Davenport that second time to perform, Deanna was thrilled to discover how “artsy” downtown was. “There’s a cool breath of ‘hipness’ in Davenport,” she said. “I was delighted!” Now, she and her band can’t wait to play in the Blues Fest again on Friday, July 1. They’ll be on at 8:30 p.m. following Joe Price & Beverly “Guitar” Watkins at the tent stage.

Deanna Bogart is a multi-talented pianist, saxophonist, and vocalist who incorporates everything from boogie woogie and Latin jazz to R&B and contemporary Chicago and New Orleans blues sounds into her band’s music. But she likes to keep the blues and boogie “at the core.”

What really makes Deanna swing is her prowess as a performer. Downbeat magazine has called her “an extravagant entertainer” who puts lots of energy into her 1930s style of boogie piano and lots of soul into her sax and singing. Blues Revue has even called Deanna the Marcia Ball of Washington, D.C.

About her 2002 self-released album Timing Is Everything, The Washington Post said, “It’s clear Bogart isn’t interested in cranking out a series of empty-headed, keyboard-driven party anthems. Instead, she composed 10 tunes that rank among her best – her band never sounds better than when she’s venting – and she vents a lot.”

Blues Revue’s Genevieve Williams says, “Timing Is Everything is aptly named. Bogart has tightened the screws on song structure, and her band grooves like a well-oiled machine. The result is part blues, part boogie woogie, with a little bit of country and a smidge of rock-and-roll thrown in. ... Bogart’s distinctive musical voice comes through.”

On the telephone, Deanna has a deep, slightly gravelly, soothing voice, which just lends itself to the blues, and her friendliness is infectious. She’s also modest. Deanna lauds her band members, especially her rhythm section. She feels that her most important musical connection in the band is with the drummer. Her significant other plays the drums and she was amused to hear that my husband does, too. “They should get together and jam,” she said with a smile in her voice.

When I asked her who the driving force in the band is, she said, “You have to be able to catch a groove with yourself – be confident on your instrument. The guys and I drive each other. Sometimes you push or you’re inspired, but it [the music] comes from a non-thinking place. You’ve already done the work.”

Since Deanna has managed to earn a living from making music, I asked her what her favorite thing is about playing. “I feel like I’m not giving away any minutes of my life by doing something I don’t like,” she said. “I feel like I’m living!”

But music isn’t everything. Deanna’s 11-year old daughter, Alix, also plays an important role in her life. Her voice just lit up when she started talking about her. Alix comes to her gigs and often tours with her. But Deanna puts her to work. “When she’s on the merch [merchandise] table, we sell like crazy!” I mentioned how cool that must be for Alix. Said Deanna with a chuckle, “But you know, going to work with mom is just going to work with mom.”

Born in Detroit and raised in New York, Deanna began her musical career in her early 20s when she moved to Maryland in 1981. She became vocalist for the group Cowboy Jazz that played Western swing music of the 1940s. Cowboy Jazz enjoyed moderate success, and Deanna gained a good reputation among local musicians. Indeed, she played R&B for almost two years with the Washington, D.C.-based band led by Root Boy Slim – a D.C. musical legend who has since passed away.

Then in 1988 Deanna formed her own band (today composed of drummer Mike Aubin, guitarist Kajun Kelley, and bassist Eric Scott), and began composing her own music that combines boogie with modern jazz and rock. Deanna has firmly established herself in the D.C. music scene, winning 20 Washington Area Music Awards (known as “Wammies”) over the past two decades. Five of those awards were for Timing Is Everything, including Best Blues Vocalist, Best Group, Songwriter of the Year, Song of the Year, and Musician of the Year.

Deanna plans on recording again soon. She has booked time in the studio for August when she’ll be working on a solo-piano album with some trios and a few vocals. Then in early spring she’ll cut the next band album. Meanwhile, for those of you who have already seen Deanna perform, you can look forward to hearing some of her new material at the Blues Fest in July. For those of you who have never seen her: What are you waiting for?
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