Interview - Michel Donato

Michel Donato

Michel Donato was born in Montreal on August 25, 1942. He began on the accordion at age 10, piano at 12 and then the bass at 14. He has performed and recorded with Sonny Greenwich, Oscar Peterson, Ian McDougall, Bruce Coburn, Dave Samuels, Bernie Senesky, Buddy De Franco, Gordie Fleming, Oliver Jones, Toots Thielmans, Bill Evans and others. He has written numerous scores for film, television and radio including "Omni Romance," "Le Marché du Couple" and "Les Muses Orphelines," for which he won Le Prix Jutras in 2001.

What are some important musical and other lessons you've learned that you can pass on to aspiring bassists?

I was about 15 and get this call from a very good accordion player. I was very excited and I practiced. Actually, it was a little cocktail job.  I wanted to impress him and I was playing 100 notes per bar. He told me he was impressed but told me that we both need a bass player! That was my first bass lesson.

What are three of your favourite recordings that you consider essential for any bassist to check out?

Mingus - Ah Um, Herbie Hancock - Speak like a Child, Bill Evans - Sunday at the Village Vanguard, plus many more with Ray Brown.

Can you share some practice ideas? What should aspiring bassists focus on? What worked/works for you? I realize this is a very broad question that varies with individuals' needs, but I'm looking for some general ideas, and in particular what worked for you.

For example, with a standard, you have to learn and sing the melody (theme). You have to learn the skeleton (form) and the modes involved. Sing the melody and play in "2" to make sure you know it, and play it in all the keys.

Do you have any advice for overcoming difficulties or obstacles?

You have to be on top of the situation.

Do you have any advice for players just beginning their careers? What worked for you?

Try to memorize as many tunes as possible and show up in jam sessions.

Do you have any gear advice (specific pickups, strings, amps, etc. and what to look for)?

I have an old Underwood pick-up and a Phil Jones amp.

What's coming up for you and how can we follow you (website, social media, etc,)?