Will Donato

By | April 15, 2015 at 11:59 pm | No comments | Backstage Jazz, Columns, Feature Stories

By Patte Purcell

I’ve been into smooth jazz since I first discovered David Sanborn back in the 90’s. That has led me into some of the best music in the world and started my passion for smooth jazz.

Right after my husband Len passed away I was driving to downtown Palm Springs to have some dinner when I heard Len say in my ear “go to the Riviera” so I did. Len and I had always planned to go to hear the jazz by the pool, but never made it there. I pulled up and asked the valet if they had someone playing. He said that the music started at 5. I parked my car and went to the poolside area. I was the only one there. I took a seat and in walked this adorable smiling guy with blue sunglasses. It was Will Donato.

Will Donato and Art of Sax ‘serenaded me’ as he calls it. I was so intimidated yet mesmerized I could hardly look at him. Will Donato blew me away. He was so good and so entertaining and yes, gorgeous. I could not believe that an entertainer of this caliber was playing in a local venue.

As I came to find out, Will Donato is no ‘local’ musician. He is one of the top smooth jazz sax players in the industry. He is also a smooth jazz composer and recording artist. He has had 10 ‘singles’ hits on the charts. In fact he was one of the Top 50 Billboard artists in 2010. He plays all over the country, plays on Jazz Cruises, and plays on other artists CDs. He has 5 CDS to date on Innervision Records with a new one on the way.

Right now he’s in the process of recording his new single release for radio produced by Steve Oliver and mixed by Darren Rahn (who also mixed his hit ‘Funkability’. He’s played with everyone from Euge Groove to Spyro Gyra.

For those that don’t know. Will was diagnosed with cancer in his tongue in 2010. Conventional therapy would have rendered him unable to play sax anymore. He and his beautiful wife Diana visited Mayo Clinic. The doctors there urged him to apply for an experimental laser surgery they performed.  They did, and nothing less than a miracle happened when they donated their services to Will to treat the cancer. Thanks to that operation and the prayers of scores of people, Will’s cancer was removed 100% and no further treatment was necessary.

I will never forget the night he came back to play after being off for a month. I had run out to my car to get something and Will had just gotten out of his car as I was walking in. He told me he was scared because he hadn’t played since the operation. He was embarrassed by the large scar that was running down his neck. I told him he was going to do just fine and that no one would mind about the scar. We were just happy he was ok. He went into the Riviera and started to play softly. He picked up volume as the evening progressed. The next Thursday when he played at the Hyatt I saw an almost normal Will play his heart out.

I hired Will and Art of Sax to come back to Omaha to do a fitting ‘going away party’ for my husband of 34 years and we had a blast!

We also did a concert at Soaring Wings Vineyard the next day and brought in Blake Aaron. Johnny Meza also performed. I have no doubt that it was the best celebration of life possible and I will always treasure it.

Will loves to give back and he’s always the first one to show up to play if it helps a cause. I’ve known him to drive to San Diego to make a PR appearance at a Jazz Brunch, do a party in the afternoon and then show up for his weekly gig at the Riviera on Sunday, where he packs them in from 5-9.

He truly deserves the title of ‘Hardest working man in smooth jazz’. In addition to that he’s been mentoring Chase Huna, a 15 year old protégé, who is going to go all the way. He makes a point to remember people’s names and always calls out to them when they come in to see him. He does this in honor of his Mom who just passed after years in a home with Alzheimer’s.

He is warm and welcoming to artists and fans alike and always gives a platform for artists to showcase their talents.

Most people don’t realize that he was the valedictorian of his class.

He’s not only a hard worker but he and his wife, buy and manage rental properties. He’s not your typical musician.

Will expressed his love for the desert and the nostalgic feeling of ‘The Rat Pack’ an entertainment legacy that is at the base of this town.

He and his wife just purchased a new house and he finally has that studio he’s been dreaming about.

When I asked Will what he’d like me to write about him, he said, “just tell them how much I love what I do.” He loves the travel, he loves the playing, he loves the recording. He loves the life (and his wife who he refers to as “The Goddess”.) His goals include playing his originals like “Italia” with a full orchestra. He’d also like to do a college clinic for budding musicians.

Check out Mightmusic.com for a list of his upcoming national concerts. He plays with Art of Sax Sundays at the Riviera and Fridays and Saturdays at the Hyatt in Indian Wells. He now has 61 of his songs on  itunes and is shooting for 100.

Will Donato is nominated for the ‘BEST JAZZ ARTIST’ in the CV Music Awards and yes I voted for him. I’m honored to call him my friend.

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