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Giacomo Gates: Luminosity

Album Remarks & Appraisals:

"In the DVD interview and introductions to tunes on both discs, Giacomo Gates mentions a lot of the usual suspects as influences: Sinatra, Crosby, Jon Hendricks and Betty Carter. But names like Babs Gonzales, Jackie Paris, Cab Calloway and Lord Buckley suggest that Gates is in touch with a deeper tradition, that he likes the hustlers, entertainers and saloon singers as much as he does the hipsters, beats and artists. Maybe that's why Gates always sounds and looks like he's having such fun when he's in front of a microphone.

Like Gonzales and some of the saloon singers he admires, Gates has a rough and ready voice, a fairly low baritone with a slight sandpaper edge, plus an easy way with phrasing reminiscent of the underrated Dean Martin. And as is evident throughout and visible on the DVD, Gates handles himself like a musician, part of the band. Whether scatting or turning a melody around when reentering after a solo, Gates shows he's been listening to what's been going on around him.

And he takes his admiration of those singers he mentions beyond lip service, actually doing songs they did, thus discovering them anew for this generation of listeners. Hence we get "Me, Spelled M-E, Me," a song written for Babs Gonzales by guitarist Dickie Thompson, as well as "Beginning of the End," a resonant ballad that Gates found on a Gonzales recording. Bobby Troup, another Gates favorite, is represented not by the predictable "Route 66," but by "Hungry Man," which yields such rhymes as "turkey/Albuquerque," "banana/Butte, Montana" and "tuna/Laguna." And from the Joe Derise book he's unearthed the 'happy blues,' "The Blues Are Out of Town," given to him by its lyricist, Marcia Hillman.

One of the chief pleasures of this package is the repertoire, a goldmine of hidden gems as well as a clutch of well-considered standards such as "P.S. I Love You," "Comes Love" and "Since I Fell for You" - that last with a long Lou Rawls/Isaac Hayes-style spoken intro. There's also deserve-to-be-standards like "Someone's Rocking My Dreamboat" and "Romancin' The Blues"; surprises including Jimi Hendrix' "Up From the Skies" and Gates' funky rap, "Full of Myself" and utterly unpretentious (other singers please note) vocalese courtesy of wordsmiths Jon Hendricks, Eddie Jefferson and on "Peace of Mind/Let's Cool One," Gates' own words to Thelonious Monk." -AllAboutJazz

Album Reviews:

JazzTimes (pp.115-116) - "Gates nods to both the Ink Spots and Bugs Bunny with the delightfully retro 'Someone's Rocking My Dream Boat' and indulges his affection for Bobby Troup tunes with the deliciously caloric travelogue 'Hungry Man.'"

Album Notes

Giacomo Gates has flown under the radar for decades, always a rising star, but never able to grab the brass ring as one of the most talented and entertaining of a small cadre of male jazz vocalists. This new studio CD & club date DVD combo pack, only his fourth recording, should sway unacquainted listeners and attract an audience to what he does best -- play to the listener. In his flatted tone and effusive manner, Gates can charm you, impress you with his vocal chops, and tell the tall tales of jazz from hard, cold experience that few singers know. Gates also knows how to pick a first-rate band, with the extraordinary pianist John DiMartino his main foil, the peerless bassist Ray Drummond, Cleveland veteran Greg Bandy on the drums, and lesser known but skilled players as guitarist Tony Lombardozzi and unsung tenor saxophonist Bob Kindred helping out. Always aware of the swing factor, Gates takes an enhanced lyric line to "Comes Love," sings his own words about the modern-day rat race and slowing the pace of life down on Thelonious Monk's "Let's Cool One" retitled "Peace of Mind," and does Meredith D'Ambrosio's bopping "Melodious Funk" alongside Kindred in regards to missing your one and only. Always fond of Babs Gonzales and Eddie Jefferson, Gates interprets the insular, self-promoting "Me, Spelled M-E, Me," the heartbreaking ballad "The Beginning of the End," and the bass/vocalese primed "What Am I Here For?" Among the sliders or curveballs included; a wonderful bluesy version of Jimi Hendrix's "Up from the Skies," the slightly ribald yearning for a good meal during "Hungry Man," the e-mail disdain of "P.S., I Love You," and the completely deadpan, sarcastic, and contempt riddled talking point tune "Full of Myself." The accompanying DVD is from a performance at Pearls' in San Francisco, backed by a quartet featuring pianist Larry Dunlap. Eddie Jefferson's lyrics are featured on the classic read of "Billie's Bounce," the great rendition of the combo tune "Lady Be Good/Disappointed" of which Gates has heroically done for years, and another take of "Melodious Funk." Though Gates is handsome and full of charisma, he's not as slick or pop-oriented as the Harry Connick, Jr. types. This is a good thing, because the authentic, pure bop invention of his American idols still deserves to be heard. Giacomo Gates does it right, and he keeps diggin' up buried jazz treasures. ~ Michael G. Nastos


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