Giacomo Gates - Vocalese

Chris’ Jazz Café, April 20, 2013

By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.
By Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.

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Poised with jazz aficionado coolness, jazz/vocalese singer Giacomo Gates ventured into the music of the legendary Miles Davis at Chris’ Jazz Café, in Philadelphia. With his deep baritone and hip vocabulary, Gates engaged the audience immediately with his enthusiasm and appreciation to the audience. The rhythm section featured Tom Adams, piano; Craig Thomas, bass; and Tom Cohen, drums.

Gates opened the set with his own lively version of "All Blues". Next Gates shared a brief history of bebop through song. Gates informed the audience that his album “Miles Tones” was Number 1 on National Jazz Radio. From Mile Davis’ album ““Four & More”, Gates performed a swinging "Four"; navigating with ease the challenging lyrics made famous by the legendary Jon Hendricks.

In this intimate Jazz setting, Gates sang Oliver Nelson's “Stolen Moments” and Gershwin’s “Lady be Good”, drawing the audience more into the show. He performed a stunning interpretation of Paul Desmond’s solo from Dave Brubeck’s “Take 5”. He told the audience the story about manager and producer Helen Keane asking the Paul Desmond estate lawyer for permission to release Gates’ interpretation of "Take 5" with additional lyrics. The lawyer's response was that both Carmen McRae and Al Jarreau have sung it and that’s enough vocal renditions. Gates' version was exciting, although as of this date he has not yet recorded it.

While the audience dined on an array of delicious cuisine, Gates performed Bobby Troup's "I'm a Hungry Man", a fun story about one man’s gastronomical adventures, while the rhythm section trio put down some swinging solos.

He followed with his combined version of “Blue Skies” and “In Walked Bud.” Gates gave us a lesson in Jazz history by sharing that Thelonious Monk was performing “Blues Skies” one night when fellow pianist Bud Powell entered the club. Monk artistically reversed the chord changes and "In Walked Bud" was created. One of the originators of vocalese, Jon Hendricks later added lyrics.

Gates’ vocalizing was warm, sensitive and well modulated. On ballads “I Fall in Love Too Easily” and “Round Midnight”, his phrasing, scatting and interpretation was impressive as he paid tribute to timeless Jazz standards.

Chris's Jazz Cafe is a world-renowned destination for live Jazz. With both established and young talent and a great dining menu, Chris's Jazz Cafe should be on your list of things to do in Philadelphia. While you are there, try the delicious bananas foster cheesecake!

More images from the event are in Ben Johnson's photo gallery

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Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.