June 2007

Michel Donato Trio | Jean-Luc Ponty – double bill
at the Toronto Jazz Festival
June 24, 2007 Toronto Star Stage Nathan Phillips Square Toronto
St. Jean Baptiste Day
by Paul J. Youngman with photos by Mike Colyer
Bassist Michel Donato was joined by guitarist Jon Geary and accordionist Marin Nasturica for a delightful performance under the big tent at the Toronto Jazz Festival. Donato, a powerful bass player with a very percussive style, creates incredible texture with his multi dimensional playing and smoothly flowed through a mix of jazz standards and originals to the delight of the audience.
The Michel Donato Trio opened the show for violinist Jean Luc-Ponty. Ponty is a mainstay at the festival, having participated in five festival shows. Michel Donato, a Montréal-based musician, began his musical training on the accordion, so it is only fitting that he round out his trio with an accordion player. Mr. Donato switched to bass at the age of fourteen. Donato has been the bassist with some of the greatest trios of all time, including the Oscar Peterson Trio and the Bill Evans Trio. He is a world-class musician, a treasure of Canadian talent.

The trio performed “Waltz for Nells”, a song with an incredible accordion solo. Jazz accordion is something not often heard. Marin Nasturica is a master. Sounding like a piano, his playing was an instant success with the crowd. The opening number was followed by “Happy Swing” a Donato composition, with seven-string guitar player Jon Geary playing a tight fluid break of majestic beauty. “Have You Met Mr. Jones” dedicated to the master Canadian pianist Oliver Jones was up next. A three-four gospel-sounding tune with Donato fitting an astounding amount of notes into a three beat bar.

Michel Donato
The standard “Donna Lee” was performed beautifully. A tune dedicated to Django entitled “Tears” was played with extreme mastery. Another tune, “NHOP”, was dedicated to master bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen who passed away in 2005. Mr. Donato announced, “To Niels Pedersen, one of the finest bass players that ever lived.” The Donato Trio could have played all night long; they received a well-deserved encore and returned to play one more number.

The announcement of Jean-Luc Ponty created loud and exuberant applause from the audience. The band energetically took to the stage and bounded into their first song. A full sound was produced with heavy percussion, dynamic keyboard and solid bass and drums. The violin of Ponty sounded as only the violin of Jean-Luc Ponty can sound, somewhere in the range of classical, contemporary and European jazz.

The band is made up of William Lecomte, Guy Nsanque Akwa, Thiery Arpino and Moustapha Cisse, playing piano and keyboards, electric bass, drums and percussion respectively.

The band played many of the songs from their new album as well as some classic Jean-Luc Ponty tunes. Flying through the set they performed “In The Fast Lane”, “Point Of No Return”, “Back In The Sixties”, “Without Regret”, “Celtic Steps”, “Euphoria” and “On My Way To Bombay”, all songs from the new album The Acatama Experience on the Koch Records label.

The band played five songs from the new album before launching into some of the material from the 1977 release Enigmatic Ocean, performing “Mirage” and the three-part suite “The Struggle Of The Turtle To The Sea”.

Jean-Luc Ponty
A nice performance by a very tight band, incorporating the crossover of fusion and world music within the jazz-rock style of Jean Luc Ponty.
We welcome your comments and feedback
Paul J. Youngman
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Mike Colyer
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The Live Music Report

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