Brazilian composer and pianist Joao Donato, who helped lay the groundwork for bossa nova, has died aged 88. He was a master of many styles. DJ Blue Tone takes a dive in his legacy.

Liner notes:

Excerpt from The New York Times:

As a pianist, Mr. Donato was known for his blend of a frisky, restlessly syncopated, harmonically intricate left hand with relaxed, sure-footed right-hand melodies. As a composer, producer and arranger, he constantly — and playfully — fused and stretched idioms and production styles. He once said he had a “sweet tooth for funky ideas.”

Mr. Donato played MPB (as Brazilian popular music is widely known; the letters stand for “música popular brasileira”), jazz, funk, salsa, American pop and pan-American hybrids that were entirely his own. He worked with generations of Brazilian musicians, including the singer and movie star Carmen Miranda; the singers Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento and Marisa Monte; and the rapper Marcelo D2.

He also recorded with Eddie PalmieriMichael FranksMongo Santamaría and Ali Shaheed Muhammad from A Tribe Called Quest. Throughout his life, he sought new grooves.

Mr. Donato began leading his own groups in the early 1950s while also working as a sideman. He played accordion on Luiz Bonfá’s first album, released in 1955, as part of a studio band that also included Antonio Carlos Jobim. Mr. Jobim produced Mr. Donato’s debut album, “Chá Dançante” (1956), and Mr. Donato wrote songs with João Gilberto, including “Minha Saudade,” which became a Brazilian standard.

Mr. Donato also recorded extensively with important Brazilian musicians like Jorge Ben, João Bosco, Chico Buarque and Martinho da Vila. He continued to perform his own music and released a live album, “Leilíadas,” in 1986. But he didn’t return to making his own studio albums until “Coisas Tao Simples” (“Such Simple Things”), released in 1994, even as he continued to do session work with songwriters including Bebel Gilberto and Marisa Monte.

On Twitter, Mr. Veloso summed up Mr. Donato’s music admiringly. It was, he wrote, “the highest achievement of extreme complexity in extreme simplicity.”