Dona Oxford and Johnny Pisano
Review by Richard Brody
Photographs by Stanley Johnson
The lightning and thunder that hit the Music Haven on Sunday night came not from bad weather but from Dona Oxford and her band, who blazed through two soul-stirring sets. Ms. Oxford is known for her high energy performances that show off her dazzling keyboard playing and soulful vocals, and this being a homecoming show for Oxford, who grew up in Nippertown, she held nothing back. And we got close to two hours of hip-shaking, arm-waving, gettin’-down dance music.
One of the highlights of the first set was Dona’s rendition of “Step Up.” The song, written by Ms. Oxford and Barry Goldberg, is about each of us stepping up and communicating respect and understanding for each other so that we might bring our world back into balance. The performance featured powerful singing by Dona with assistance from her back-up singers, Robin Daléa and Amanda Homi, and playing that was highlighted by one of Colin Ryan’s many liquid guitar solos.
While there were certainly elements of boogie woogie all night, Ms. Oxford’s show-stopping turn on “The Boogie Woogie” that closed out the first set had the crowd screaming for more. You could hear the influence of her mentor Johnnie Johnson (Chuck Berry’s piano man for many years) influence and certainly Jerry Lee Lewis as her right hand (the woogie hand, she told us) flew across the keys in a blur.