Michel Donato | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Michel Donato

Michel (André) Donato. Bassist, composer, singer, b Montreal 25 Aug 1942. His father, Roland, was a saxophonist and dance band leader.

Donato, Michel

Michel (André) Donato. Bassist, composer, singer, b Montreal 25 Aug 1942. His father, Roland, was a saxophonist and dance band leader. The younger Donato studied bass ca 1958-61 at the CMM with Roger Charbonneau then privately with Thomas Martin and played occasionally in the early 1960s with the MSO, but has made his career as a jazz and studio musician in Montreal, save for a period 1969-77 in Toronto. He worked frequently at the Jazz Hot and the Jazztek during the 1960s with Pierre Leduc, Lee Gagnon, and others, often playing in tandem with the drummer Claude Ranger. Donato was a member 1968-9 of the Montreal trio Aquarius Rising with Ranger and Brian Barley, and later worked with Ranger in Toronto clubs under the leadership of Lenny Breau and others. During his Toronto years he also was heard in the trios of Carol Britto and Bernie Senensky accompanying US musicians at Bourbon Street and toured internationally 1972-3 as a member of the Oscar Peterson Trio. He played occasionally during the 1970s in Toronto and Montreal with Bill Evans but declined an offer to join the US pianist's trio.

His association with both Peterson and Evans marks Donato as one of Canada's foremost jazz bassists; the two pianists' respective and very different requirements - Peterson's in the sturdy, swinging tradition of Ray Brown and Evans' in the pliantly virtuosic, wholly melodic style of Scott LaFaro - indicate Donato's command of the double bass and its history.

Returning to Montreal, Donato lived 1977-90 in Saint-Saveur-des-Monts (and thereafter in the city proper) and began teaching at McGill University and the University of Montreal in 1980. An ad hoc Donato quintet won the FIJM's inaugural Concours de Jazz de Montréal in 1982, leading to a performance at the Pompeii Jazz Festival in Italy. He collaborated 1983-90 with the singer Karen Young in a popular, if eclectic duo (see Young for details) and was himself heard occasionally as a singer and pianist in this setting. Donato appeared at the FIJM with Young and in various other capacities during the 1980s - eg, as a member of the Lorraine Desmarais and Oliver Jones trios, in 1984 with Oscar Peterson and the MSO, and in 1985 with the 'Montreal All Stars'. In 1990 he undertook a collaboration with the bass guitarist Alain Caron (UZEB); the duo appeared at the FIJM in 1991.

Donato's compositions include showpieces for bass (eg, Invention no. 20, Hoedown for Bass, Bagatelle), collaborations with Young and, through a company established in 1991 with the pianist James Gelfand and the flutist Jean Dury, incidental music for TV and film.

Further Reading