INTERVIEW: Legendary Bassist Stefano De Donato

Hi Stefano, welcome to Vents Magazine! Before diving down the proverbial rabbit hole, how has your 2021 been thus far?

Well very frankly the best year of my life artistically even though economically it hasn’t been the best. 

You’re a well-known and respected Euripides of the Blues, playing a bass like no one’s business. What kicked off your journey as one of the premiere funk/jazz musicians in the world? Is there a Secret Origin story that you could share with our readers?

 I was born a metal head but unfortunately never played rock music as well as I wanted too. I dreamed of playing with the Foo Fighters but I guess I took another path. The discovery Miles Davis and James Brown in my twenties was something special, I didn’t even start playing or getting into music until my early twenties. I have always been a music nerd, I probably have 30,000 albums sitting around my house, from cd’s to vinyl to digital. 

What specifically is it about jazz and funk that appeals to you? Is it akin to what Louis Armstrong once said when someone who asked him what it was about jazz that captivated him so; “If you gotta ask the question, you ain’t ever gonna know the answer”?

I really just love music, I am a sponge when it comes to the music world. Everything is an influence for me and I don’t see even music as a genre, it’s music and that’s what I love. It’s hard to talk about jazz and funk now days because the both of them hold so many influences in them from other worlds, the contamination of todays sound is an evolution of where music is and will be going.

How did your band Dirotta su Cuba get started and who are the other members of the band?

Dirotta su Cuba was born from the idea of making funk music in Italian, we just wanted to make something that hadn’t been done before in our country. 

How has the worldwide pandemic changed how you and Dirotta su Cuba tour and promote the music?

I am not just a founder of the Dirotta su Cuba, that isn’t my main focus or who I define myself as a musician. The only thing really missing is doing live shows when it comes to the band because of the COVID-19, I have continued producing, working with my endorsers, writing and creating. 

You’ve worn a lot of different hats in the music industry: Composer, author, bassist, arranger and artistic producer. Is there one over another that you prefer doing, or is it a matter of apples and oranges?

When it comes to hats I like changing my style everyday, I would get so bored by only playing instruments or only producing on the computer or only writing songs. I believe having range in different fields helps my creative process as well.

Congratulations are in order for your recent gig as a co-host of the ongoing show Make it Funky – A Journey into Soul and Black Music. For those not in the know, what can you tell us about this well-regarded show?

The gig is just me doing what I love, sharing music I think sounds great with the public. I adore sharing music with my friends so being able to do the same thing with a larger audience is the little child in me jumping up and down excited to come home with the next vinyl or cd. I think everyone that really loves music loves sharing it with others even more. 

Are there any musicians who have inspired and/or influenced your own trajectory in the music world?

The list is way to long, like Frank Zappa said once: I am inspired by both things I like and don’t like. There is a difference between what I like and what inspires me. 

You take on the role of mentor and producer for the upcoming Pablo Nannucci album Always Searching for Freedom. How was it collaborating with Pablo on this new album?

 I met Pablo Nannucci while working on the Music for Love album. He wrote Cantabile 2.0 , Speak Life 2.0 and Ego and we really began to click and found a truly great chemistry working together. We decided to work together for his album which is still a work in the progress and I joke with him because he still needs to choose his artists name, something is special is brewing with him and I can’t wait for the world to hear. There is a generational gap between him and me, I’m 55 years old and he’s 21 and it was crazy to see how well and prolific he is in his creative process. The kid writes songs in fifteen minutes and that put me to the test as a producer, I probably have 70 songs of his sitting on my laptop right now from the last 5 months of working together.

 Coming off of your collaboration with Pablo, do you envision taking on other producer/mentor roles in future albums for other artists?

Well first of all I know he is going to be a multi platinum artist as soon as he comes out so I am focused on that. 

 In 2018, you joined Music for Love as an artistic director. What can you tell readers about this endeavor and what it means to you?

Music for Love is special, it is a revolutionary organization and is doing what nobody in the music industry is doing. It carries a message and is slowly but surely changing the world and the people that come in touch with it. Music for me is deeper than making hit songs, Music for Love is building schools, orphanages, giving back to communities all over the world and feeding the hungry. What are we here to do? I don’t need to buy a beachside villa, I would rather help those that need something more than me while I am here. 

 Dirotta su Cuba has been a major force in the music industry, having been honored with no less than three Gold and one Platinum records; How does it feel to be recognized by your contemporaries and peers for the work that you do?

It feels great, the best feeling is when someone tells me they started playing the bass because of the bass lines on the Dirotta su Cuba’s albums. 

 We last saw Dirotta su Cuba on disc back in 2016 for the critically lauded and commercially loved album Studio Sessions Vol. 1. The Vol.1 in the title denotes that there must be more albums on the way. When can fans expect more from Dirotta su Cuba?

I have no idea, I am in a different phase artistically so who knows what the future holds when it comes to upcoming projects regarding DSC. 

Final – SILLY! – Question: Best jazz bassist – Stanley Clarke or Charles Mingus?

The best bass player is always whoever accompanies the song better. I couldn’t really tell you who is the best bass player, at the end of the day it is all about feeling and what you transmit to the public. Sometimes three notes well put together can make you cry while a super complicated scale played extremely fast has no pathos to it. 

Dirotta su Cuba:

Stefano De Donato Facbook:

Listen to Sounds of a Winner:

Listen to Music For Love Vol. 1:

About Ryan Vandergriff

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