Bob French and Friends

Donna's Bar and Grill

January 12, 2004

Bob French was a great jazz drummer, but more importantly, he was an excellent master of ceremonies. French joked and handed out light-hearted, disparaging comments like candy to many people who passed through the doors of Donna's Monday night. His between-song banter, which created a half stand-up act/half Jazz concert, had a laid-back, neighborly feel to it.

French assembled a crack band for the evening: saxophonist Clarence Johnson III, trumpeter Troy Andrews, bassist Richard Molten and pianist David Torkanowsky. Vocalist Ellen "Sexy" Smith also laid down her smoldering femininity on two songs per set(“You have the right key/but the wrong keyhole”).

The band was tight and very comfortable with each other, smiling and jabbering along the way. They stuck to traditional Dancehall Jazz standards, but they deviated for a few Mardi Gras songs. During one half of the room flailed napkins while they second-lined around the main layout of tables. One of the marchers was a 90 year-old birthday girl. Go, Grandma!

Two surprises were a jumpin’ cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” and a crowd- chanting rendition of “Mustang Sally.”

The star of the night was Andrews, who smoked up the place during his solo on "St. James Infirmary." He let a note fade away for dramatic effect, and he incorrectly blew to make a wonderful stuttering sound during his battle with Johnson to end the third set.

French said of Monday nights at Donna’s: "If you enjoyed yourself, tell everyone you know. If you didn’t, don’t tell nobody." So, now you know.

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