Michel Donato

Michel Donato was born on August 25, 1942 in Montreal into a musical family. His grandfather was a skilled violinist while his father played the flute, saxophone and piano. Donato’s cousin tested his skills on the acoustic basses. Donato started his musical education at the age of ten on the accordion. Soon after, Donato switched to the piano and then to the bass at the age of 14. Roger Charbonneau was Donato’s teacher. He taught Donato for three years at Quebec’s Conservatoire de Quebec. Donato also made his debuts in Montreal’s club scene, where he accompanied his father at the ‘Palais D’or’. Donato’s distinguished professional career began in the 1960s. The young bassist grew and excelled over the next decade with some of music’s most revered luminaries like Sonny Greenwich and Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel, Carmen McRae, and Jacques Brel. Donato also recorded an album in the sixties with Nick Ayoub, and collaborated on numerous radio programs for Societe Radio-Canada as well as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. After a series of successful trips through Europe and North America in the sixties, Donato decided to move to Toronto, where he could enjoy the musical and cultural benefits that Toronto has to offer. He gigged tirelessly in clubs, studios, and on television over the next few years, culminating in 1971 when Donato was invited to join the Oscar Peterson Trio. It was an honor that Donato received. For the next two years, Donato traveled the world, recording and playing with one of the most prestigious jazz ensembles. Donato was asked to fill the position of bass for the Bourbon Street’s top club, after the Peterson gig ended. He and his rhythmic mates provided excellent backing for scores visiting jazz legends like Zoot Sims and Benny Carter. Donato, who was reenergized by his creativity, returned to Montreal in 1977 and recorded two albums that were very successful with Francois Dompierre and Felix Leclerc. Donato then embarked on his second major collaboration, this time with Bill Evans and the legendary jazz pianist. This Evans trio, though it was short-lived and transitional, was rounded out by the masterful energy of Philly Joe Jones. This group, unlike many Evans’ other ensembles that sought to create a rich, unique sound, merged three distinct sounds into one cohesive whole. Donato was always looking for new and exciting opportunities to keep his creative fire burning. He was a McGill University professor and L’Universite de Montreal’s vocalist Karen Young’s partner for eight years. This partnership allowed him to reaffirm his status as one of Canada’s most prolific and versatile jazz musicians. In the eighties Donato also began his long-standing association to Montreal Jazz Festival. He performed on the summer stage alongside Joe Morello to Louis Hayes, Oliver Jones, Gonzalo Rubalcaba to Toot Thielmans and even an 1984 reunion with Oscar Peterson. Donato has continued to play infrequently over the years while composing a few feature film scores, including the award-winning music for the film, “Les Muse Orphelines”. Donato also worked with Chalie Haden and Henri Texier on double bass, as well as maintaining a steady number of ensembles with James Gelfand. In 1995, Donato was presented with the Oscar Peterson Award for excellence and innovation in Canadian Jazz. He continues to be committed to developing young musicians and teaching them. From www.micheldonato.com

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