Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Donato, Michel

Donato, Michel, bassist; b. Montreal, 25 August 1942. He was born into a family drenched in  musical tradition. His grandfather was an accomplished violinist, while his father juggled the saxophone, flute and piano, and his cousin, like Donato tested his wares on the acoustic bass.

At the ripe age of ten, Donato began his musical training on the accordion. Shortly thereafter, he shifted his studies to the piano, and finally to the bass at age fourteen.  Under the guidance of Roger Charbonneau, Donato studied for three years at the Conservatoire de Quebec, while making his first appearances on Montreal's vibrant club scene, including a stint with his father at the famous 'Palais D'or'.

The 1960s saw the beginning of Donato's professional career. Over the course of the decade, the young bassist developed in the company of some of music's most respected luminaries, including Art Blakey, Sonny Greenwich, Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel and Carmen McRae. What is more, the sixties also marked Donato's initial forays into the studio, recording an album with Nick Ayoub in 1964, and collaborating on several radio programs for Societe Radio, Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

As the seventies approached, and after successful jaunts through Europe and North America, Donato made the decision to leave his Montreal home for Toronto. In the years that followed, he gigged relentlessly in clubs, studios and on television- climaxing in 1971, when an invitation came for Donato to join the world-renowned Oscar Peterson Trio. For the next two years Donato toured the globe, playing and recording with one of jazz music's premier ensembles. When the Peterson gig came to its end, Donato returned to Toronto and filled the bass chair for the house band at Bourbon Street, the city's top club. There, he and his rhythmic mates provided stellar backing for scores of visiting jazz greats: Clark Terry, Benny Carter, Zoot Sims, Art Farmer and Gerry Mulligan, to name a few.

In 1977, Donato returned to Montreal, recording successful albums with Felix Leclerc and Franssois Dompierre. Following this, Donato embarked on the second of his major collaborations- this time with the trio of legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans, founded out with drummer Philly Joe Jones.
During the eighties, he taught at McGill University and L'Universite de Montreal, began an eight-year partnership with vocalist Karen Young, and re-asserted himself as one of Canada's most versatile and prolific jazz musicians. Also in the eighties, Donato began his long-standing association with Montreal Jazz Festival. Over the years, he performed on the summer stage with everyone from Louis Hayes to Joe Morello, Oliver Jones to Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Toot Thielmans, and even a 1984 reunion with Oscar Peterson.

In recent years, Donato has remained continued to play regularly, while composing a handful of feature film scores (among them the award-winning music to the critically acclaimed film, 'Les Muse Orphelines'). Donato has also collaborated in double bass experiments with both Henri Texier and Chalie Haden, while keeping a steady list of ensembles with pianist James Gelfand.  In 1995, He was awarded the prestigious Oscar Peterson Award for excellence in Canadian Jazz, and to this day remains committed to teaching and developing young musical talents.

Le quintet de Michel Donato (1982); M. Donato and Karen young (1985); Contredanse (1988); Heureux qui comme Felix (1989); En Vol (1990); Basse contre Basse (1992); Jazz and Romance (1996); Tricycle (1995); De toute Beaute (1995); Maree Bass...e (1995); Second Time Around (1996); Setting the Standard Vol 1 (1996); Live (1997); Setting the Standard Vol 2 (1999); Les Trois Michel (2000); Masters of the Spirit (2001)

As sideperson:
Oscar Peterson Trio: In Tokyo (1972); Dave Turner Quartet: Cafe Alto (1987); James Gelfeand: Children's Standards (1997); Gabriel Labbe: L'harmonica, une passion (1999); Frederic Alarie: Moon Bass (2000); Jean-Pierre Zanella: Mother Tree (2002)

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