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October 28, 2007

Jazz Bassist Michel Donato Awarded Order of Canada

Written by
cindy mcleod

jazz music news, Canada


Order of Canada
Michel Donato

Montreal Bassist Recognized for His Contributions to Jazz

Governor General Michaelle Jean named 40 “exceptional citizens” to the Order of Canada Friday on the 40th anniversary of the Order.

Among them is one of Canada’s most recognized leaders in jazz music, bassist and composer Michel Donato. The world-class artist has gained an international reputation for his technique, virtuosity and mastery, and for his work as a member of a variety of music groups and his performances with Quebec jazz and vocal greats.

Michel Donato was born into a musical family in Montreal on August 25th, 1942. As a child he began his musical training on the accordion and piano, picking up the bass at age fourteen. Under the tutelage of Roger Charbonneau, Donato studied for three years at the Conservatoire de Québec, and his first appearances on the Montreal club scene, including a stint with his father at the famous ‘Palais D’or’.

The 1960s saw Donato’s professional career take off when he performed with such notables as Art Blakey, Sonny Greenwich, Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel and Carmen McRae, touring throughout Europe and North America. He also logged the first of his many recording studio credits, cutting an album with Nick Ayoub in 1964, and on several Société Radio-Canada and CBC radio programs.

During the 70’s Donato moved to Toronto, where he made innumerable appearances in clubs, studio and television. In 1971 he was invited to join the world-renowned Oscar Peterson Trio, and toured the globe for the next two years with the jazz legend. Following his stint with the trio, he returned to Toronto and filled the bass chair for the house band at Bourbon Street, the city’s top club, where the band backed scores of visiting jazz greats such as Clark Terry, Benny Carter, Zoot Sims, Art Farmer and Gerry Mulligan, to name a few.

In 1977, Donato returned to Montreal, where he recorded successful albums with Félix Leclerc and François Dompierre, and embarked on the second of his major collaborations, the trio of legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans and drum giant Philly Joe Jones.

During the eighties, Donato taught at McGill University and L’Université de Montréal, build an eight-year partnership with vocalist Karen Young, and saw the start of his long-standing association with Montreal Jazz Festival, where over the years, he has performed with everyone from Louis Hayes to Joe Morello, Oliver Jones to Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Toot Thielmans, and a celebrated reunion with Oscar Peterson in 1984.

In recent years, Donato remains a busy musician, 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 on double bass projects with both Henri Texier and Chalie Haden, and in numberous 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.

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