Michel Donato was born in Montreal on August 25th, 1942, into a family drenched in musical tradition. His grandfather was an accomplished violinist, while his father juggled the saxophone, flute and piano, and his cousin, like Donato tested his wares on the acoustic bass. At the ripe age of ten, Donato began his musical training on the accordion. Shortly thereafter, he shifted his studies to the piano, and finally to the bass at age fourteen. Under the guidance of Roger Charbonneau, Donato studied for three years at the Conservatoire de Québec, while making his first appearances on Montreal's vibrant club scene, including a stint with his father at the famous 'Palais D'or'.
The 1960s saw the beginning of Donato's long and illustrious professional career. Over the course of the decade, the young bassist developed and even excelled in the company of some of music's most respected luminaries, including Art Blakey, Sonny Greenwich, Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel and Carmen McRae. What is more, the sixties also marked Donato's initial forays into the studio- recording an album with Nick Ayoub in 1964, and collaborating on several radio programs for Société Radio-Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
As the seventies approached, and after successful jaunts through Europe and North America, Donato made the difficult decision to leave his Montreal home for the evergreen musical pastures of Toronto. In the years that followed, he gigged relentlessly in clubs, studios and on television- climaxing in 1971, when an invitation came for Donato to join the world-renowned Oscar Peterson Trio. Needless to say, the honor was his, and for the next two years Donato toured the globe, playing and recording with one of jazz music's premier ensembles. When the Peterson gig came to its fluid end, Donato returned to Toronto and filled the bass chair for the house band at Bourbon Street, the city's top club. There, he and his rhythmic mates provided stellar backing for scores of visiting jazz greats: Clark Terry, Benny Carter, Zoot Sims, Art Farmer and Gerry Mulligan, to name a few.
In 1977, Donato returned to Montreal with renewed creative vigor, almost instantly recording successful albums with Félix Leclerc and François Dompierre. Following this, Donato embarked on the second of his major collaborations- this time with the trio of legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans. Rounded out with the masterful vitality of drum giant Philly Joe Jones, this edition of the Evans trio- though short-lived and admittedly transitional- has only recently received the distinction it deserves. Unlike many of Evans' previous ensembles, which sought to mine a lush, singularly collective sound, this group was marked by the merging of three highly distinctive sounds into one galvanized whole.
During the eighties, Donato continued to seek out new and interesting endeavors that would keep his fiery creative spirit engaged. He taught at McGill University and L'Université de Montréal, began an eight-year partnership with vocalist Karen Young, and re-asserted himself as one of Canada's most versatile and prolific jazz musicians. Also in the eighties, Donato began his long-standing association with Montreal Jazz Festival. Over the years, he performed on the summer stage with everyone from Louis Hayes to Joe Morello, Oliver Jones to Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Toot Thielmans, and even a 1984 reunion with Oscar Peterson.
In recent years, Donato has remained continued to play regularly, while 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 in double bass experiments with both Henri Texier and Chalie Haden, while keeping a steady list of 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.