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The High Key Portrait Series: Donn T

Donn T | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

Donn Thompson Morelli is an author. She’s a theater and film actress. She’s a record label owner, having founded and launched Dtone Victorious records in 2014, on which she’s also a recording artist. She’s a singer and a songwriter who pens her own work and contributes to her husband’s as well, the Philly-by-way-of-New-York guitarist and producer Jake Morelli. She’s a committed multitasker and she doesn’t seem to want to stop.

These days she has her hands in a little bit of everything, from a new dreamscape of a collaboration with Philly rapper Chill Moody and producers Daru Jones and Ray Angry, to work with singer Kuf Knotz, to performing this past Spring in Prince Theater’s premiere of Japanese Azteroids, coming soon to Netflix. Earlier this month, Donn was a panelist and a headlining performer at a Behind The Song launch event, an anthology edited by K.M. Walton to which she contributed as well.

When you meet her, you get an immediate sense of just how busy she makes herself, how involved she is at every level of her artistry. What you notice most of all though is how hard a time she has keeping a lid on her exuberance for all of her many varied forays and interests.

Donn channels a rich family history in the arts, and in particular the arts in Philadelphia, and to spend half an hour asking her about it is to realize just how many more stories she’d have to relate if you only had another few weeks to talk. Raised in West Philly in the ‘70s by parents who were legendary performing artists in their own right, Donn and her brother Ahmir were both exposed from a young age to the power of wordcraft, and both followed their own distinct paths to prolific careers in the performing arts. She now goes by Donn T; her brother by Questlove — he started a band too.

DonnT talks about some of that here, and lays bare her reverence and gratitude for the eclectic influences with which she was imbued by her parents, and for the city that in her mind so uniquely and singularly supports such a variety of artistic style. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Donn T at Spruce Street Harbor Park, Digable Planets at Electric Factory, Erica Corbo at Bourbon & Branch

roots picnic
Donn T | Photo by John Vettese

Continuing their stacked summer show line-up, Spruce Street Harbor Park welcomes soulful singer/songwriter Donn T to the waterfront tonight. The local musician released her sophomore effort Flight of the Donn T in 2015, the first entry on her own D Tone Victorious label and a great display of electro-R&B. More information for the free concert with Little Strike can be found here. Watch the “Last Breath” Questlove Remix (Donn’s brother) below.

Continue reading →

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Listen Donn T’s “Last Breath” remixed by her brother Questlove

Questlove and Donn T | Photo by Shayan Asgharnia | via
Questlove and Donn T | Photo by Shayan Asgharnia | via okayplayer.com

Flight of the Donn is the latest album from R&B singer and songwriter Donn T, who comes from a musically talented family. She’s the granddaughter of Beachy Thompson from the gospel group Dixie Hummingbirds, the daughter of doo-wop and R&B singer Lee Andrews (of Lee Andrews & the Hearts) and Jacqui Andrews (who was a member of Congress Alley with Lee ), and her brother is Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of the Roots. Continue reading →

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Love of My Life: The 8th Annual Roots Picnic celebrates a generation of innovative music

The Roots | Photo by John Vettese
The Roots | Photo by John Vettese

Every year, the Roots Picnic inches closer to Philly musical utopia. The pre-summer day fest is curated by local hip-hop heroes The Roots, the self-proclaimed hardest working band in America. True to their own innovative and barrier-breaking approach, the lineup is always a unique, eclectic and interesting trip. The setting and its vibe has historically been a bit rockier, beset by exponentially swelling crowds and typically sweltering heat beating down on the minimally shaded asphalt of Festival Pier.

But the eighth annual installment of the Picnic yesterday, while not perfect, was a tremendously positive event, with major improvements in the layout and organization of the festival and a trimming of the musical fat (for the most part). Continue reading →

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Other than The Weeknd and A$AP Rocky, 5 Artists to Catch at The Roots Picnic this Weekend

 

Donn T | Photo via Facebook.com/pages/Donn-T/105596011218?fref=photo
Donn T | Photo via Facebook.com/pages/Donn-T/105596011218?fref=photo

The 8th annual Roots Picnic is headed to Festival Pier this Saturday, May 30. Major names are set to perform at the all-day festival (The Weeknd and Phantogram, anyone?), but the lesser known artists will undeniably rock Penn’s Landing just as hard. The Questlove-curated lineup includes longtime Philly favorites and emerging young artists. Here are five not to miss. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Donn T at Johnny Brenda’s, Dark Blue at Boot and Saddle

Donn T | via Donn T's Facebook
Donn T | via Donn T’s Facebook

Dynamic Philly soul singer Donn T is celebrating the release of her second album, Flight of The Donn T, tonight at Johnny Brenda’s. A collaborator of Marsha Ambrosius, Zap Mama and John Legend – and, yes, sister to a drummer named Ahmir Thompson, but let’s not make too big a deal out of that – she made a splash in 2010 with her album Kaleidoscopic, and last year founded her own D Tone Victorious label to release Flight. The album is vibrant and engaging, at turns recalling Erykah Badu and Sade, and tonight she celebrates it at the latest Re-Set party, curated by local fave Res and also featuring Kate Faust. Tickets and information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Archers of Loaf at the Trocadero and Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears with Donn T at the TLA

For years (13 years, to be exact), it seemed that ‘90s indie rockers Archers of Loaf were gone for good. Then, this past January, the North Carolina-based foursome reunited for a surprise set in their home state. To the delight of fans everywhere, a fall reunion tour was announced a few months later, followed by a performance at Sasquatch Music Festival. The hype didn’t stop there; in early June, Merge Records announced plans to reissue all four of AoL’s studio albums, beginning with their debut LP Icky Mettle on August 2nd. Later that month, the group made their TV debut performing their 1992 single “Wrong” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. No details have been released on what the future holds after this tour for the band, so if you want to see them before their next 13 year hiatus, you may want to be sure you make it out tonight. Archers of Loaf perform with By Surprise at the Trocadero at 9:00 p.m.; tickets to the all-ages show are $20 and are available here.

Also tonight: XPN Welcomes Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears w/ Donn T at the TLA at 7:30 p.m. Tickets to the 21+ show are $27.00 (including fee).

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This weekend in shows: Death Cab, Cold Cave at Making Time, Archers of Loaf, Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears and the Mad Decent Block Party


There’s lots of cool shows to check out this weekend. Here’s what we recommend.

Tonight
– Death Cab For Cutie w/ Frightened Rabbit at the Mann Center at 8 p.m. Tickets to the all ages $29.50-$39.50.
– Hometown heroes Man Man with Grandchidren and the West Philadelphia Orchestra at The Trocadero at 7 p.m. Tickets to the all ages show are $14.
– PhillyLOVE w/ DJ Queslove at the Electric Factory at 10:30 p.m. Tickets to the 21+ show are $40.20 (including service charges).
– Atomic Square w/ Ages and Bacio at Johnny Brenda’s. Showtime is 9:15 p.m. Tickets to the 21+ show are $10.00.
– Making Time w/ Cold Cave and Austra at Voyeur at 9 p.m. Tickets to the 21+ show $12 in advance/$15.00 at the door.

Saturday
– XPN Welcomes Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears w/ Donn T at the TLA at 7:30 p.m. Tickets to the 21+ show are $27.00 (including fee).
– Archers of Loaf w/ By Surprise at The Trocadero. Doors at 8 p.m. Show at 9 p.m. Tickets to the all ages show are $10.00.
– Jill Scott’s Summer Block Party w/ Mint Condition and Anthony Hamilton at the Susquehanna Bank Center at 7 p.m. Tickets to the all ages show are $25.75-$150.75 (additional service fees apply to different ticket levels).
– The Ettes w/ Heavy Cream and Hans Condor at the M! Room at 9 p.m. Tickets to the 21+ show are

Sunday
– Mad Decent Block Party at The Piazza at 1 p.m. This event is all ages and free.
– Sir Benjamin Quintet (Ben Vaughn) w/ this Sunday Dixy Blood at the Little Bar, 736 S. 8th St. (at Fitzwater) at 9:00 p.m.