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09/26/11

Giacomo Gates
The Revolution Will Be Jazz: The Songs of Gil Scott-Heron

If poet-cum-prophet Gil Scott-Heron taught us anything, it was to find your own truth. Which is precisely what Giacomo Gates does on this 10-track foray into the vast and fertile jungle of Scott-Heron songs, sermons and soliloquies. Gates could have covered pieces like “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” “Johannesburg,” “We Almost Lost Detroit,” “Angel Dust” and “B-Movie,” all among Scott-Heron’s best works, none of which have lost their sting.

But Gates travels deeper to unearth equally profound pieces that speak directly to, and for, him. These extend from jazz-centric musings—the impassioned “Lady Day and John Coltrane” and the slyly crafted condemnation of imposed boundaries, “Is It Jazz”—to wider-angle themes like “Show Bizness” and “New York” and such broader, hot-button topics as gun control (“Gun”), consumerism (“Madison Avenue”) and cultural decay (“Winter in America”). Minimalist settings appropriately and effectively keep Scott-Heron’s words in the spotlight. Gates’ voice, akin to silk-backed sandpaper, suits the material ideally, particularly on the uplifting “It’s Your World” and the gently hopeful “This Is a Prayer for Everybody to Be Free.” It’s rather like the jazz equivalent of Orson Welles reciting Shakespeare.

Given its timing, this album will likely be branded a tribute, though it was conceived and recorded well before Scott-Heron’s death this past May. Better to think of it as personal benediction, and proof that Scott-Heron didn’t speak for everyone but for every one.

Originally published in October 2011
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