Mouse Bonati – Portrait of a Jazz Hero (1955/2022)

Mouse Bonati - Portrait of a Jazz Hero (1955/2022)
Artist: Mouse Bonati
Album: Portrait of a Jazz Hero
Label: Fresh Sound Records
Year Of Release: 1955/2022
Format: FLAC (tracks)
1. Scherzo (02:46)
2. Back (02:29)
3. One Blind Mouse (02:45)
4. Mouse’s House (02:42)
5. Improvisation (02:04)
6. What a Difference a Day Made (02:44)
7. New Orleans (04:41)
8. Kids Delight (05:25)
9. Injun Joe (03:29)
10. Lope In (01:41)
11. Jasmine (03:57)
12. Lover Man (03:11)
13. Tuxedo Junction (03:29)
14. Stompin at the White House (02:44)
15. Redwood Cathedral (03:10)
16. Cry Me a River (03:01)
17. Taxi Dance (05:42)


Joe “Mouse” Bonati was arguably one of jazz history’s most-underrated alto saxophone players. Today his name remains unknown to many and is completely ignored by jazz dictionaries and encyclopedias.

This skilled altoist was born in Buffalo, NY, in 1930. His career was interrupted several times due to being arrested, and later convicted, of drug possession, forcing him to change cities frequently to continue working as a musician. He moved to New Orleans in the early 1950s, where he became involved with a group of hungry, young musicians in its emerging modern jazz scene. In 1955, he made his recording debut with Jack Martin’s Octet, followed by his first-and-only recordings as the leader of his own sextet–both for the tiny local label Patio Records. On these rare and rather excellent sides, we can enjoy Bonati’s fiery passionate bebop alto sax style, fluent in the Bird tradition, and his tasteful and relaxed –but no less intense– groove on the ballads.

From then on, Mouse’s reputation grew quickly. At one point, he was even considered by Dizzy Gillespie for a place in his band in Louisiana, but the authorities stopped him from playing as he was on probation.

After a short time in San Francisco and Las Vegas, he briefly joined Frank Strazzeri’s new quintet in Los Angeles in 1962, which appeared on noted disc jockey Frank Evans’ TV show ‘Frankly Jazz.’ Strazzeri’s quintet also recorded for Dick Bock’s Pacific Jazz label, but the session wound up unreleased, resulting in another bad experience for Mouse.

He moved around the country for several years before settling in Las Vegas in 1972. There, he played in show and jazz bands like the Dan Terry “Big” Big Band, with whom he made his last recordings in 1981. This unsung jazz hero died of cancer in 1983, and with this release, we hope to give Joe “Mouse” Bonati the recognition he deserved as one of the great alto saxophonists of modern jazz history.
Jordi Pujol

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