• Jonathan Widran

WILL DONATO, ELEVATE

In the smooth jazz genre these days, it’s a truly rare feat for a single new track to amass hundreds of thousands of streams on Spotify, let alone over a million – but versatile veteran sax and flute maestro Will Donato pulled it off with his recent Billboard #1 smash “Infinite Soul,” which is fast closing in on 2.5 million streams.

And no wonder. In this challenging time where it’s been so easy to get discouraged and feel gloom and doom, that buoyant soul-funk jam – produced by and featuring the lush retro-key and piano magic of Greg Manning – is just the burst of funk-shine we all need these days, and the perfect introduction to Donato’s new album ELEVATE, an eclectic contemporary jazz set whose overall vibe and titles (“The High Road,” “ELEVATE,” “Cloud Nine,” “You Got This,” “Joymaker”) are pure optimism, uplift and encouragement, wrapped in tight in the pocket grooves, spritely melodies, monster hooks and the fascinating duality (and sometimes intertwining on a single track) of Donato’s sax and flute.


While ELEVATE is definitely a sax dominated set, the handful of tracks featuring his lush, often whimsical lead alto flute melodies showcase a deeper side of Donato’s vast artistry than his many hits reveal. These include his lyrical, easy-flowing original “Joymaker” and artful re-imaginings of three jazz classics that take the listener on a journey far beyond radio friendly smooth jazz – the bluesy Joe Sample-penned Crusaders strut “It Happens Everyday,” Don Grolnick’s lovely “Lotus Blossom” (first recorded in the late 70’s by David Sanborn) and Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments,” which Donato approaches over a hypnotic shuffle groove.


Long a familiar presence as a sideman for countless smooth jazz stars, Donato’s latest solo album should truly ELEVATE him to star status himself.


Listen to ELEVATE on Spotify by clicking here: ELEVATE