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Giacomo Gates: Everything is Cool

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A latecomer to jazz as a vocation, Giacomo Gates cut his first album 20 years ago at age 45 and has since recorded just six more as a leader. But what he lacks in quantity he’s more than made up for in quality. A fervent acolyte of bebop, scat and vocalese masters, Gates has dotted his albums with tributes to such heroes. Everything Is Cool marks his deepest dive into their collective songbooks, including selections by such seminal figures as Babs Gonzales, Oscar Brown Jr., Jon Hendricks and Frank Rosolino, with Brubeck and Monk added for good measure.

As he enters his mid-60s, Gates’ phrasing has grown a little looser, his range narrower. Still, he remains one of the finest interpreters around, fully on par with Mark Murphy and Kurt Elling. Oddly, given the album’s focus on intrepid vocal adventurers, Gates plays it straighter than usual, adding only the occasional scat chorus and just one meaty vocalese, stretching the center of Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t.”

Gonzales is provided the most attention, Gates covering three of his tunes, including the breezy, Jimmy Van Heusen-worthy title track. Rosolino’s “Please Don’t Bug Me” is a vengeful delight, while Timmie Rogers’ bluesy “If I Were You, Baby, I’d Love Me” (written for Nat Cole) recalls the laidback sophistication of Matt Dennis. Most curious (and perhaps coolest of this ice-cool set) is “All Alone,” a bitter slice of beat-poetry payback written by comic legend Lenny Bruce in 1958, after his wife left him.

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