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December 2004

Giacomo Gates
Centerpiece
Origin Records

Another extraordinary vocal stylist we never hear enough from is Giacomo Gates. He's often and accurately credited as a contemporary Eddie Jefferson, but with his full-bodied baritone and blazing inventiveness he sounds like the love child of Billy Eckstine and Kurt Elling. As bracing an innovator as he is an interpreter, Gates transforms his third studio album, Centerpiece (Origin), into a cornucopia of delicacies that extends from a smooth, mellow "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" and an appropriately foggy "Scotch and Soda" to a "Milestones" as magnificent as Mark Murphy's and a razor-sharp blend of "Lester Leaps In" and Jefferson's "I Got the Blues" that single-handedly captures all the be-boppin' majesty of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. His "Lady Bird" is flawlessly navigated, his "I Told You I Love You, Now Get Out" packs as much sass as Anita O'Day's and his "All of Me" nods to both Illinois Jacquet and King Pleasure.

So tremendously accomplished is Centerpiece that we can forgive Gates one little hiccup. In his spoken intro to "Route 66" he explains, "In 1946 Bobby Troup was traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles with his wife, Julie London. He wrote this tune for her." In actual fact, London and Troup didn't work together until the mid-'50s and weren't married until 1959. Troup wrote several songs for London, including "The Meaning of the Blues," but his signature "Route 66" wasn't one of them. Still, who cares about factual trivialities when Gates' imbues the Troup gem with the fine-tuned hum of a freeway-bound XKE?

Originally published in December 2004
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