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Matthew Ruddick

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Author of Funny Valentine, an acclaimed new biography of the jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
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Saturday, 05 June 2021 17:12

Joao Donato JID007: Jazz Is Dead

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Busy bossa on JID007.

The team at Kind Of Jazz has generally loved the Jazz Is Dead series, loving assembled by Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad (A Tribe Called Quest). They've generally given a contemporary vibe to older jazz musicians who still have plenty left to say, and so it was exciting to hear that they had teamed up with Brazilian pianist, and bossa nova giant, Joao Donato - a man described by Antonio Carlos Jobim as a genius.

Now eighty-six, Donato is perhaps best known for a series of albums he recorded from the mid-1960s through the early 1970s; albums like Sambou, Sambou (1965), The New Sound Of Brazil (1965), A Blue Donato (1970) and Quem E Quem (1973). Listen to any these albums now, and what strikes you is Donato's love of melody, his versatility, the warmth of his playing and the sense of space.

Most of the songs on JID007 were written Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad ahead of the recording session, with contributions from vocalist Loren Oden. Whilst the tunes were clearly written with Donato in mind, and includes songs like Nao Negue See Coracao, which translates as Don't Deny Your Heart, most of the tunes are smothered by what the liner notes describe as a "musical maelstrom", which on the opening track include drums, courtesy of Greg Paul, synthesisers, "aspirational" saxophones, Hammond B3 and "cutting" fuzz guitar. All of which leaves Donato's warm Fender Rhodes buried in the mix, and struggling to make itself heard.

Aquarius (Bring Her Back Home To Me) is little different, with flute, alto and soprano sax, percussion and vocal all contributing to a very busy sound, which don't really allow space for the melody - which is admittedly lovely - to breathe.

Listen to Forever More here.

Under the circumstances, it's perhaps not surprising that the most successful track on the album is Adrian, Ali and Gregory, a track composed overnight by Donato himself, which has a more relaxed vibe, and allows us to here more of the man himself, whose playing is still a delight.

JID007 is not a bad album, by any means, but the added layers make it a less relaxing, enjoyable listen than it should have been. Instead, go back and listen to this earlier Donato recordings, which will give you a much better idea as to why Donato is considered one of the lesser-known giants of bossa nova.

 

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