About João Donato
Born: August 17, 1934 (Brazil)
Instrumentalist (pianist and accordionist). Arranger. Singer. Composer.
Father of three children: Jodel, Joana and Donatinho.
Born in Rio Branco, state of Acre, he used to play music with bamboo
small flutes and saucepans in his childhood. One day he got an eight
bass accordion as a gift and, later on, a higher accordion. In 1945, he
moved to Rio de Janeiro with his family. There, he started to play on
his school’s parties. On one of these parties, he met the band
“Namorados da Lua” and started a friendship with Lúcio Alves,
Nanai and Chicão. Four years later, he was already playing in
the jam-sessions held at Dick Farney´s and at the Sinatra-Farney
Fan Club, to which he was a member. In 1951, he participated in the
northeastern music program "Manhãs da roça", broadcasted
by Zé do Norte, on the Rádio Guanabara. At the same time,
he started to study piano.
He started his professional career in 1949, as a member of the Altamiro
Carrilho e Seu Regional´s band, with which he recorded, in that
year, a 78 rpm with the songs "Brejeiro" (Ernesto Nazareth) and "Feliz
aniversário" (Altamiro Carrilho and Ari Duarte). His
participation on the record was omitted by the label. Thereafter, he
replaced Chiquinho do Acordeon in the Fafá Lemos´band in a
show at the Monte Carlo nightclub (RJ). Thereafter he performed in
other nightclubs, such as Plaza, Drink, Sacha's and Au Bon Gourmet,
In 1953, he formed his own band, “Donato e Seu Conjunto”, with which he
launched, in that year, two 78 rpm records: "Tenderly" (J. Lawrence and
W.Gross)/"Invitation" (Bronislau Kaper) and "Já chegou a hora”
(Rubens Campos and Henricão)/"You Belong to Me" (Pee Wee
He joined the band “Os Namorados”, with which he recorded three 78 rpm
records: "Eu quero um samba" (Haroldo Barbosa and Janet de
Almeida)/"Três Ave-Marias" (Hanibal Cruz), in 1953; "Palpite
infeliz" (Noel Rosa)/"Pagode em Xerém” (Sebastião Gomes
and Alcebíades Barcelos), in 1953; and "Você sorriu"
(Valdemar Gomes and José Rosa)/"Não sou bobo" (Nanai, Ari
Monteiro and L. Machado), in 1954.
Still in 1954, he formed the “Trio Donato”, with which he launched a 78
rpm including the songs "Se acaso você chegasse (Lupicínio
Rodrigues and Felisberto Martins) and "Há muito tempo
atrás” (J. Kern and I. Gershwin).
In 1956, he moved to São Paulo, where he was the pianist of the
band “Os Copacabanas” and the “Orquestra de Luís Cesar”. In that
same year, he launched a 78 rpm with the “Donato e Seu Conjunto”,
including the musics "Farinhada" (Zé Dantas) and "Comigo
é assim" (Luiz Bittencourt and José Menezes). Yet in
1956, he recorded his first LP, "Chá dançante", produced
by Tom Jobim for the Odeon label. In the repertory, the songs "Comigo
é assim" (Luiz Bittencourt and Zé Menezes), "No Rancho
Fundo" (Ary Barroso and Lamartine Babo), "Se acaso você chegasse"
(Lupicínio Rodrigues and Felisberto Martins), "Carinhoso"
(Pixinguinha and João de Barro), "Baião" (Luiz Gonzaga
and Humberto Teixeira), "Peguei um Ita no Norte" (Dorival Caymmi),
"Farinhada" (Zé Dantas) and "Baião da Garoa" (Luiz
Gonzaga and Hervé Cordovil).
In 1958, he went back to Rio de Janeiro and started to dedicate himself
exclusively to the piano. In that year, he recorded two tracks on the
LP "Dance conosco": "Minha saudade" (with João Gilberto), his first success, and "Mambinho". At that time, he
joined the “Orquestra do Maestro Copinha”, that played at the
Copacabana Palace (RJ).
In 1959, he went to Mexico with Nanai and Elizeth Cardoso. Thereafter,
he moved to the United States, where he lived for three years. There,
he played with Carl Tjader, Johnny Martinez, Tito Puente and Mongo
Santa Maria. He made a tour in Europe with João Gilberto.
In 1962, he came back to Brazil.
In 1963, he recorded the LP "Muito à vontade", with Tião
Neto (double bass) and Milton Banana (drums). The record was launched
by Polydor, standing out his compositions "Sambou... sambou" (with/
João Melo) and "Caminho de casa". On that same year the LP "A
bossa muito moderna de João Donato e seu Trio" was launched.
Soon he returned to the United States, where he lived for more than ten
years. There, he recorded a LP with saxophonist Bud Shank and with
guitar player Rosinha de Valença, in addition to the records
"Piano of João Donato - The sound new sound of Brazil", "A bad
Donato", which included the participation of double bass Ron Carter,
and "Donato Deodato - Featuring João Donato, arranged and
conducted by Deodato", with arrangements by Eumir Deodato. He also
performed with other artists, such as Astrud Gilberto, Caymmi, Tom
Jobim, Eumir Deodato, Stan Kenton, Nelson Riddle, Herbie Mann and Wes
Montgomery, among others. His musics "Amazonas", in the Chris
Montez´ recording, and "A rã" and "Caranguejo", both
recorded by Sérgio Mendes, gathered a great success with the
North American audience.
In 1972, he returned to Brazil and in the following year the LP "Quem
é quem", was recorded and launched by Odeon. The innovation of
such record was the inclusion to its repertory of music with lyrics
sung by the composer himself, who had been, until then, an interpreter
of instrumental music, and "Até quem sabe" (with/ Lysias
Ênio) and "Chorou, chorou" (with/ Paulo César Pinheiro)
are outstanding, among others.
In 1974, he was the musical director and participated in the show
"Cantar", made by Gal Costa on the Teatro da Praia (RJ). The show was
recorded, and his songs "Até quem sabe" and "A rã" (with/
Caetano Veloso) were included in the repertory.
In 1975, the LP "Lugar comum", was recorded, launched by Phonogram.
In 1986, the LP "Leilíadas" was launched.
In 1997, he recorded, with Eloir de Morais (drums), the CD "Café
com pão", for which he got two nominations for the “Prêmio
Sharp” award: Best Record and Best Arranger. In that same year, he made
the CD launch show at the Mistura Fina nightclub (RJ). Still in that
year, he launched the CD "Coisas tão simples", by EMI/ Odeon,
and four unpublished songs of his authorship are outstanding: "Fonte de
saudade" (with/ Lisias Ênio), "Everyday" (with/ Norman Gimbel),
"Summer of tentation" (with/ Toshiro Ono) and "Doralinda" (with/
Cazuza). The record was launched in a show at the Mistura Fina
In 1998, he was once more at the Mistura Fina, with the show "Café com pão", joined by Eloir de Morais (drums).
In 1999, he recorded the CD "Só danço samba",
interpreting Tom Jobim´s works, exclusively. Also in that year,
the Lumiar Discos & Editora launched the "Songbook João
Donato" (book and three CDs), with the participation of Caetano Veloso,
Gal Costa, Djavan and Daniela Mercury, among other artists. The launch
show was held at Bar do Tom (RJ), with Bororó (acoustic bass),
Victor Bertrami (drums), Ricardo Pontes (sax and flute), Jessé
Sadoc (trumpet) and the composer himself at the piano, in addition to
the participation of Nana Caymmi, Marcos Valle, Os Cariocas and Angela
Rô Rô, among other performers.
In 2000, he was in the project "Rio Sesc Instrumental", at the Sesc
Copacabana (RJ), joined by Jessé Sadoc (trumpet), Ricardo Pontes
(saxes and flute), Nei Conceição (bass) and Victor
Bertrami (drums). On that same year he performed at the Copacabana
Beach, at the closing show of the project "Rio-Bossa Nova 2000". Also
in 2000, he recorded the CD "Amazonas", joined by Cláudio Slon
(drums) and Jorge Helder (acoustic bass), launched by the Elephant
Records of Vartan Tonoian (Denver, Colorado, EUA). The record included
in the repertory Donato´s own compositions, standing out "Glass
beads" and "Coisas distantes", both with the partnership of João
Gilberto. For the record launch, he performed at the Memorial da
América Latina, with the “Orquestra Jazz Sinfônica de
São Paulo” (SP), and at the Mistura Fina (RJ), with double bass
Luis Alves (bass) and Cláudio Slon (drums), thereafter making a
tour to Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the United States,
and a mini season at the Blue Note in New York is outstanding. Still in
2000, he was awarded the Prêmio Shell de Música for the
whole of his work and participated in the Free Jazz Festival (RJ),
reaching a huge success towards the public and the reviews.
On February 2001 he married Ivone Belém, a journalist from the
state of Rio Grande do Sul. On July of that year, in the Amazon
Forrest, and with the partnership of also piano player Everardo de
Castro, he composed "Amazonas: um poema sinfônico", a theme for
piano and orchestra, sponsored by the state of Amazonas government and
script by Ricardo Cravo Albin. On September of the same year, he
presented the symphonic piece, with the “Orquestra Amazonas
Filarmônica”, arranged by maestro Laércio de Freitas,
conducted by maestro Luiz Fernando Malheiro and narrated by Ricardo
Cravo Albin, at the Teatro Amazonas, in Manaus.
In 2002, he launched the CDs "Brazilian time", "Remando na raia" and
"Ê Lalá Lay-Ê" (DeckDisc), and on this latest,
partnerships with his brother Lysias Ênio were recorded,
exclusively. In that year he also performed with the “Orquestra Jazz
Sinfônica”, at the Sala São Paulo. The concert was
recorded live and originated the CD "The Frog", launched by the
Elephant Records label. Still in 2002, he went to Japan, where he made
10 presentations with the singer Joyce.
In 2003, he was awarded the Prêmio APCA (Associação
Paulista dos Críticos de Arte – Association of Art Critics of
the State of São Paulo). He made shows in Cuba, Russia and
Japan, and in many Brazilian cities, launching the CD "Managarroba".
Marisa Monte, Marcelo D2, Joyce and João Bosco joined the disk.
Yet in that year he recorded with Emílio Santiago, the CD
"Emílio Santiago encontra João Donato" and, with Wanda
Sá, the CD "Wanda Sá com João Donato".
In 2004, he was awarded the Prêmio Tim for the record
"Emílio Santiago encontra João Donato". Both artists made
a show at the Bar do Tom (RJ), named "Emílio Santiago &
João Donato". Later on that year he went to Spain, recorded a
Bossa Nova CD for the Russian market and, in Cuba, recorded the CD
"Sexto sentido". Still in 2004, he assumed the musical production of CD
"Tita e Edson" (Lumiar Discos). And, thereafter, with Bud Shank, the CD
"One evening with Bud and Donato" was recorded, soon after his
participation in the Bud Shank show at the Chivas Jazz Festival (RJ).
And still in that year he performed with Johnny Alf, Carlos Lyra,
Roberto Menescal, Wanda Sá, Leny Andrade, Pery Ribeiro, Durval
Ferreira, Eliane Elias, Marcos Valle, Os Cariocas and Bossacucanova, in
the show "Bossa Nova in Concert", held at the Canecão (RJ). The
show was presented by Miele and had a support band formed by Durval
Ferreira (guitar), Adriano Giffoni (double bass), Marcio Bahia (drums),
Fernando Merlino (keyboards), Ricardo Pontes (sax and flute) and
Jessé Sadoc (trumpet), with conception and artistic direction of
Solange Kafuri, musical direction of Roberto Menescal, research and
texts by Heloisa Tapajós, setting by Ney Madeira and
Lídia Kosovski, and projections by Sílvio Braga.
On November 2004 he received from the hands of President Lula and the
minister of Culture Gilberto Gil, the Medalha da Ordem do Mérito
Cultural, the highest merit badge in the country.
In 2005, he recorded and launched his first DVD, "Donatural -
João Donato ao vivo", and invited to join him Leila Pinheiro,
Joyce, Emílio Santiago, Angela Rô Rô and Gilberto
Gil, with a support band formed by Robertinho Silva (drums), Luiz Alves
(acoustic and electric bass), Cidinho (percussion), Jessé Sadoc
(trumpet and flugelhorn), Ricardo Pontes (sax and flute) and Donatinho
(keyboards). In the same year, he participated in the second
presentation of the show "Bossa Nova in Concert", at the Parque dos
Patins (RJ). And also in 2005, he made a launch show for the DVD
"Donatural" at the Teatro Rival (RJ), with the participation of Leila
Pinheiro and Marcelinho Da Lua.
On April 2006 he was honored by the government of the state of Acre,
that baptized with Donato´s name the modern arts and
communication center, “Usina de Artes e Comunicação
João Donato”, a deactivated former Brazilian nut plant. In the
occasion he performed with his partner Gilberto Gil.
On June 2006, with Paulo Moura, he launched the CD "Dois Panos para
Manga", conceived on a meeting at TV director Mario Manga´s home.
By that time, a record with some of the themes appreciated by the
Sinatra-Farney Fã Club goers in the 50´s was suggested to
the two artists. The repertory included his song "Minha saudade" (with/
João Gilberto), further to "On a Slow Boat to China" (Frank
Loesser), "Swanee" (George and Ira Gershwin), "That Old Black Magic"
(Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer), "Tenderly" (Walter Gross and Jack
Lawrence), "Saudade mata a gente" (Antonio Almeida and João de
Barro), "Copacabana" (Alberto Ribeiro and João de Barro), in
addition to "Pixinguinha no Arpoador" and "Sopapo", two unpublished
compositions signed by the two artists.
On November 2006, he made historic shows: in Rio de Janeiro, at the
Mistura Fina, and in São Paulo, at the Sesc Pinheiros, where he
met again the 80-year old alto-saxophonist, Bud Shank. At the meeting
again, after 40 years without presenting a show, a DVD documentary and
a CD were recorded.
On January 2007 he left to Australia, invited by Marcos Valle, for presentations with Wanda Sá and Roberto Menescal.
As an arranger, among his work stands out the CDs "O homem de
Aquarius", by Tom Jobim, and "Minha saudade", by Lisa Ono, in addition
to records of Fagner, Gal Costa and Martinho da Vila.
The long list of performers of his songs include artists such as Gal
Costa, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Tim Maia, Leny Andrade, Walter
Wanderley, Nara Leão, Roberto Menescal, Luís Carlos
Vinhas, Milton Banana, Luiz Eça, Tito Madi, Maysa, Dóris
Monteiro, Raul de Souza, Tamba Trio, Victor Assis Brasil, Mahogani,
Joyce, Bebel Gilberto, Os Cariocas, Simone, Fafá de
Belém, Miúcha, Fagner, Leila Pinheiro, Baden Powell,
Ithamara Koorax, Lisa Ono, Zizi Possi, Adriana Calcanhoto, Angela
Rô Rô and Nana Caymmi and Leo Gandelman, among others.
(from Donato's official site and used with permission)
According to Ruy Castro's book,
"Donato himself decided
to give up the accordion to concentrate on piano, and merely played
the trombone as a hobby. The story goes that he could no longer stand
to drag his accordion around the nightclub circuit because this
obliged him to avoid having a last drink, for fear of leaving it
someplace. One one of those nights, he left the accordion in an
unlocked car and it was stolen. He felt no compulsion to buy another
and, as there was a piano in every nightclub he worked in, the
dilemma was solved.
Donato might also have recounted that he stopped playing the
accordion because he had exhausted the instrument's possibilities,
while the piano seemed to be an endless source of harmonic
possibilities. And he wanted to be able to explore them. [. .
In 1959, he [Donato]
had no audience in Rio because everyone thought he played jazz, so he
went to California to play Latin music--which was what in fact he was
trying to do in Brazil, only nobody realized it. Upon his arrival
there, he was immediately adopted by the cool cats of the
genre, like the Latins Tito
Santamaria, and Johnny Rodriguez, and the Americans Cal Tjader,
Herbie Mann, and Eddie Palmieri. Without knowing it, Donato's career
had been similar to theirs. . . .Donato felt right at home in the
middle of all those congas, timbales, and bongos of Latin jazz, with
possibilities for splitting up the wind instruments and creating the
craziest piano harmonies. Everything was allowed, given that the
rhythm was an enchilada of mambos, rumbas, sambas, and porque
no?--bossa nova. . . . From 1959 to 1961, he played piano with Monga
Santamaria and participated in the first recording of 'Para Ti' (For
You), played trombone and wrote the arrangements for Tito Puente's
brass instruments, recorded
extensively with Cal
Tjader, who was
already famous, and with Eddie Palmieri, who wasn't yet. His
appearance on the scene was quite simply stunning.
In the years that followed,
they all began to use Donato's songs in their repertoire, such as "A
ra" (The Frog), "Amazonas" (Amazon), "Cade Jodel?" (Where Is Jodel?),
and they became standards for what was later called funk music.
Donato himself soon started putting together his albums at
prestigious Pacific Records--and had his songbook recorded by other
corn-tortilla-with-chilies-loving jazz musicians,
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