JoÃ£o Donato was born in Acre, Brazil, in 1934 and lives these days in Rio de Janeiro. Pianist, composer, arranger, singer and bossa nova pioneer, Donato may not be a household name, but, if you discover him through this album, you will be confronted with an enormously talented, swinging and alert musician forever pursuing a dream: the best way to eliminate the barriers between jazz and Brazilian music. He was and is a prolific composer and also arranged for many great Brazilian and American musicians and singers. He moved up North in 1959 and during his twelve years in the United States, he recorded with Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Astrud Gilberto, Bud Shank, Cal Tjader, Ron Carter, Airto Moreira, Eumir Deodato, Ray Barretto and Randy Brecker among many others. There are countless recordings of his songs all over the world and many albums under his name as a pianist and singer and as a sideman and arranger with others.
Over thirty years ago, in 1973-1974, some high calibre Brazilian bossa nova musicians met regularly at Bill Horne's place in Leblon, Rio de Janeiro. Bill, a flute, flugelhorn and mellophonium Brazilian player, had a small recording studio in his penthouse in which he was the engineer. It was equipped with a 4-track recorder, a Steinway and a Fender-Rhodes piano.
JoÃ£o Donato used to hang out at Bill's place, often in the company of guitarist and singer Tita, drummers Eduardo Lobo and Edison Machado, bassist BarnabÃ© Ferreira, flautist Ion Muniz and trombonist Edson Maciel, all of them highly recognized musicians in future years. The meetings were pretty casual: Donato would show up with some musicians, a jamming session would get started and a recording would come out of it. The creative environment was nurtured with good beer plus an unlimited supply of cafezinhos (portuguese for a small cup of strong sweetened coffee). Some musicians provided themselves with other "inspiring" snacks (like what Cuban musicians used to quite smokily call manteca, way back in the 1940's).
The musicians in these sessions showed an unlimited willingness to play their souls out. They created some intimate and spontaneous bossa nova which after more than three decades is to the ear what an aged Bordeaux is to the palate and the spirit. (*)
Bossa nova is a long love story between two apparently different musical worlds: Brazilian samba and American modern jazz. Around 1950, musicians in Brazil started an attempt to expand the scope of their popular dance music by adopting modern jazz harmonies and jazz oriented improvisation. JoÃ£o Gilberto, developed samba "jazzistically" at that time and so did others like Antonio Carlos Jobim and Eumir Deodato, who also were commercially successful. Ronaldo BÃ´scoli-bossa nova composer and lyricist-said: "JoÃ£o Gilberto confided to me that he listened a lot to JoÃ£o Donato and to Johnny Alf (another pianist and singer, born Alfredo JosÃ© da Silva). His own bossa guitar beat, adopted by every bossa musician since the late 1950's, is indebted to Donato's piano playing".
Donato's love for jazz is evident throughout his career and all the more so in this particular album. Listen to "Sem Nome aka Mr. KellerÂ» (Without a Name aka Mr. Keller), a trio number, perhaps a jam session, by Donato, Ferreira and Machado, in which the fusional character of his art is so much on the jazz side. Then the same trio extends to a quintet with Muniz on flute and Maciel on trombone to communicate their enthusiasm for McCoy Tyner's "Message from the Nile": we meet a Tyner bent Donato and experience how jazz prone Brazilian musicians can be, yet retaining their Brazilian roots. In Donato's "Tom Thumb" we see how an extremely soul tinged tune is bossa-novaed by the same group.
We are given two different versions of Herbie Hancock's "Mimosa": one of them by the trio made of Donato on piano, Tita on guitar and Eduardo Lobo on drums in which Donato and Tita scat Ã la brÃ©silienne. The other purely instrumental with the trio and Bill Horne on mellophone. If you can decide which is the jazzier one of both bossa nova renderings, please write and tell us! We think both sit easily in the ocean of bossa-jazz music. An ocean for the special pleasure of bathing in or floating on unboundedly swinging music. Let this pleasure be yours.
Check out the artist's website:
1. MIMOSA No.1
2. Tom Thumb
3. Nao Tem Nada Nao
4. Message From The Nile
5. MIMOSA No.2
6. Mr. Keller