João Donato de Oliveira Neto, born in 17/08/1934 in Rio Branco/AC
João Donato started his recording career at 15, already a challenging task in an association with a great master, Altamiro Carrilho. He recorded also with Bud Schank, Ron Carter, Airto Moreira, Elmir Deodato, Randy Brecker, Ray Barretto, Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Astrud Gilberto, Cal Tjader and several others, along with many important Brazilian musicians, including Johnny Alf and Tom Jobim. His solo career is registered in 29 albums recorded since 1953. A major figure as a musician and arranger at the bossa nova movement, he is profoundly influential, having inspired generations of players. João Gilberto confessed to have taken his bossa nova beat at the violão from Donato's piano playing.
He is generally perceived as crazy, detached, genius. Maybe he is a little of each.
He started making music very early, and soon he was already animating dance parties with his accordion. His first music notions were given by a sergeant of Acre's Military Band. At 11 he moved to Rio, and studied piano with professor Werther. At 15, he was already a professional accordion musician, playing at suburban balls. His first recording dates back from that period, a 78rpm for label Star numbered 157, with Altamiro Carrilho e Seu Regional.
Os Namorados da Lua The label omits Donato's credits. He also performed, at that time, continuing for 9 years, at the jam-sessions of the seminal amateur jazz circle Sinatra-Farney Fan Club, in Rio, which gathered people who would be important jazz musicians, producers and journalists in Brazil. At 17, he was hired by Rádio Guanabara as a sideman in the Zé do Norte show, working there for two years.
In 1952 he was hired by the great violinist Fafá Lemos to play in his group, which was performing at the Monte Carlo nightclub. He also played at several other nightclubs which congregated Rio's good musicians, such as Sacha's, Drink's, Bon Gourmet and, most importantly, Plaza, where bossa nova was born. His first solo album, a 78rpm for Sinter (Sinter 212), was entitled João Donato e seu conjunto, being released in April, 1953, containing "Tenderly" and "Invitation". In May of that year, he recorded, under the same title, another 78rpm for the same label (Sinter 231).
In July, he recorded with the vocal and instrumental group Os Namorados the 78rpm (Sinter 249) with songs "Eu Quero Um Samba" (Haroldo Barbosa/Janet de Almeida), later recorded solo by João Gilberto, and "Três Ave-Marias" (Hanibal Cruz). He also recorded other two albums with Os Namorados, always for Sinter: in October, 1953 and January, 1954.
João Donato and João Gilberto The group Os Namorados was the same as Os Namorados da Lua, without Lúcio Alves. When Lúcio Alves departed for a solo career, he prohibited his old group mates from using the old name, as he wanted to reserve it for future projects. Donato worked also for the Garotos da Lua vocal group. They were hired by the Rádio Tupi. Donato was the group's pianist and arranger, and João Gilberto joined them in 1949, subbing for crooner Jonas Silva. Their strong friendship began before they even met: before leaving Bahia, someone said to João Gilberto that he was going to meet a guy "exactly like him".
At the same time, Donato was said that the forthcoming crooner was very much alike him. When they met, they only said to each other, "That's true!", leaving quizzed the bystanders. Date from that period the numerous eccentric anecdotes of both idiosyncratic musicians. Later they would move to Luiz Teles' (from the Quitandinha Serenaders group) apartment, and live there for a while. João Gilberto recorded with the Garotos da Lua two albums, in July and November, 1951. Soon after, João Gilberto was fired from the group by Rádio Tupi's artistic direction, as "too bad a crooner". In 1954, Donato recorded another 78rpm for Sinter. In 1956, in spite of hating the cold weather of the city of São Paulo, Donato moved there, joining the group Os Copacabanas and the Luís César Orchestra, alongside with his own group. He recorded another solo album, now with this group, for Odeon, in March, 1956. In the same year and label he'd record Chá dançante, produced by Tom Jobim. In 1958 composed his first hit, "Minha saudade", with João Gilberto. At that time, Donato was playing at the Copacabana Palace with the orchestra of Copinha (fined every two days for being late everyday), and Gilberto used to go there often to chat with Donato during the orchestra's breaks (when Dick Farney's group performed). Donato said in an interview in the 70's that Gilberto confessed to him that he, Donato, was the inspirer of Gilberto's bossa nova beat at the violão. Maestro Gaya also said that.
Also in 1958 he recorded in his Lp Dance conosco (Copacabana) two partnerships with Gilberto: the mambo "Mambinho" and the samba "Minha saudade". In 1959, he was being rejected by all nightclubs. Ahead of its time, his modern swinging piano, too strong rhythmically, was excessively difficult to follow by other musicians, and customers complained about it as not danceable.
João in Arcos da Lapa, return to Brazil He ran out of gigs, and used to ask all nightclubs' owners to play for free, just to be available for anyone interested. Even then, he was only allowed to play after 4:00 a.m., when most customers have gone.
His situation was so bad he decided to move away from Brazil. His friend Nanai, having toured Mexico with the great singer Elizete Cardoso, settled in the USA and telegraphed Donato inviting him to a two-week season there. Donato went and ended residing at the USA for 14 years.
Very requested by Latin artists, he recorded Arriba! for Mongo Santamaria (Fantasy, 1961), Vaya Puente for Tito Puente (Philips, 1962), At the Black Hawk for Santamaria (Fantasy, 1962), The Astrud Gilberto album for Astrud Gilberto (Elenco, 1964, released in the USA through Verve, Silver Collection, 1991), Shadow of your smile for Astrud Gilberto (Verve, 1965), Brazil! Brazil! Brazil! for Bud Shank (World Pacific, 1967), Solar Heat for Cal Tjader (Skye, 1968), and Prophet for Cal Tjader (Verve, 1969). Given the long years they worked together in Rio, being also long time friends, Donato and Brazilian drummer Milton Banana developed a rare symbiosis, each one complementing rhythmically the other's ideas. Milton was the first musician to develop a proper bossa nova drum beat, with brushes over a cloth and stick at the snare's rim. His sound was so distinctive that was copied by many musicians, and most bossa nova recordings bring that drum sound. After the historic concert of the Carnegie Hall, in which Donato didn't participate, Donato and Milton Banana accompanied João Gilberto in a tour through Italy.
They worked for six weeks there. In spite of being harassed by more people interested in contracting him that he could handle, João Gilberto alleged a pain in his finger which impeded him of playing, and they stopped everything to wait for his recovery. Believing that only one person in the world could cure him, João Gilberto went to Paris, France, to meet Dr. Zapalla, who had been Brazilian soccer player Pelé's acupuncturist. After four weeks waiting in vain, not receiving any money, Donato and Milton departed from Europe. Donato came back to Brazil
In 1962, recorded by Polydor the Lp Muito à vontade (4085), with his compositions. This Lp was reissued later by Polyfar (2493.104) and, in Cd format, by Pacific Jazz Japan (TOCP-8320). At the same time recorded through Polydor A Bossa Muito Moderna de Donato e seu Trio (4107), released next year. He just finished the two albums and returned to the USA.
In 1965, with Brazilian violonista /composer/singer Rosinha de Valença, recorded for Bud Schank Bud Shank & His Brazilian Friends for Elenco (MEV 08), also reissued by Polydor and Toshiba EMI Japan. In the same year, recorded for RCA Victor USA Piano of João Donato - The New Sound of Brasil. His compositions "Amazonas" (recorded by Chris Montez), "A rã" and "Caranguejo" (both recorded by Sérgio Mendes), all were big hits, receiving other interpretations by several artists.
In 1969 recorded for Muse (which released it in 1973) Donato/Deodato, a classic album where Latin jazz meets bossa nova. Followed A Bad Donato (Blue Thumb,1970), with Ron Carter. Returning to Brazil in 1972, in the next year recorded for Odeon Quem é quem. In 1974 directed Gal Costa's show Cantar, recorded live and released with Gal singing a couple of Donato's songs, one with the guest Caetano Veloso. in 1975, Donato recorded Lugar comum for Philips, and in 1986 his live show at the People's nightclub was released by Elektra Musician as Leilíadas.
In 1996 recorded for Odeon Coisas tão simples, in 1997 Café com Pão - João Donato & Eloir de Morais with the Brazilian drummer. He also composed, together with Gilberto Gil, "Lugar comum" (1974), "Bananeira", "Emoriô" and "Tudo tem" (all in 1975).
A talent pianist and famous Bossa Nova composer is celebrating his fifty years carreer. To celebrate this happening, Lumiar Discos has recently released three SongBooks with all of his compositions, sung by Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, Arnaldo Antunes, Joyce, Ed Motta, Rosa Passos, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Luis Melodia, Nana Caymmi, João Bosco, Adriana Calcanhoto, Djavan, Lenine, among others.
His shows are usually accompanied by a trio formed by Luis Alves (acustic contrabass) and Robertinho Silva (drums). Being a highly talented piano player, João Donato has been requested to participate in the production of several of famous music stars CD´s, taking part recently showing his talent together with Marisa Monte, Fernanda Abreu, Emilio Santiago, Joyce and Rita Lee.
During the year of 2000, João Donato has been chosing as the winner of the Shell Music Award (Prêmio Shell de Música), an important award celebration in the brazilian music scenery. He participated in a well praised Jazz Festival in the same year and accomplished a succesful tour in the United States, where he introduced his CD "Amazonas" to americans. This CD has been released by Elephant Records, which has been on the spotlights in the USA and rechead the top ten Jazz CD´s of the year.
In 2001 João Donato promises to reach a record with the release of six CD´s, among them "Brazilian Time" and "The Frog" (Elephant Records), "Remando a Raia" (Lumiar Discos) and "Ê La La Yê" (Deck Discos), being this last one released in Japan where he, together with Joyce, presented ten shows during the month of July. In May he outstandedly was able to crowd the largest and most important concert house in São Paulo (Sala São Paulo), when playing beside the City´s Orquestra Jazz Symphony. In June he spent 12 days in a complete isolation in the middle of the Amazon forest in search of inspiration to compose an Symphonic Poem entitled "Amazonas" with its release set for the Amazon Theatre in September. We have with all this, a promising year.