was almost forty years old when someone suggested that he try his hand at singing. Luckily for the rest of us, Gates thought that was a good idea, moved to New York City later that year (1989) and began singing in clubs. Six years later Gates recorded his first CD, Blue Skies,
and Everything Is Cool
is the eighth. Simply put, no one on the scene today sings quite like Gatesand that is a compliment. He has a knack for finding splendid songs from years gone by and amplifying their inherent intelligence and charm, thus presenting them to a new generation of listeners whose taste buds have surely been compromised by today's banal and repetitive rhythms and lyrics.
In other words, Gates doesn't sing down to an audience but raises it instead to his level of acuity and eloquence. If he has any misgivings about that, they are quickly erased on the opening number, as Gates affirms that "Everything Is Cool." Marvelous lyric by Babs Gonzales
who also wrote the worldly-wise "When Lovers They Lose" and "Here Today and Gone Tomorrow." Timmie Rodgers' "If I Were You, Baby, I'd Love Me," is yet another classic, a perfect antidote to the cheerless anthem "I Can't Get Started." For heartache, Gates unravels Lenny Bruce's sardonic "All Alone," for sheer inanity Frank Rosolino
's playful "Please Don't Bug Me."
Everything else is on a similarly elevated and engaging plane, from Oscar Brown Jr.
's "Hazel's Hips" to Elvis Costello
's "Almost Blue" and Gigi Gryce
's "Social Call" (lyric by Jon Hendricks
). The (relatively) more familiar fare includes Paul Desmond
's "Take Five" and Thelonious Monk
's "Well You Needn't." Gates has his moment too, singing and scatting on his laid-back, waggish composition, "Who Threw the Glue" (in my oo-bop-sha-bam). Gates is pitch-perfect on every one, as are his resourceful teammates who are masters at supporting Gates and filling in the gaps between lyrics. One couldn't wish for more congenial partners than tenor Grant Stewart
(out of the Lester Young
/ Paul Quinichette
school of insouciant swing), guitarist Tony Lombardozzi
or pianist John di Martino
. Thanks to their expertise, Gates needn't worry for a moment about who has his back.
As for listeners, they needn't worry for a moment that any song Gates chooses to sing is less than clever and seductive, or that his way with said song is less than tasteful and perceptive. From end to end, one of the more delightful and persuasive vocal albums in quite some time.
Everything Is Cool; If I Were You, Baby, I’d Love Me; When Lovers They Lose; Social Call; Hazel’s Hips; Almost Blue; Take Five; Who Threw the Glue?; Here Today and Gone Tomorrow; Please Don’t Bug Me; All Alone; Well You Needn’t / It’s Over Now.
Giacomo Gates: vocals; Grant Stewart: tenor saxophone; John Di Martino: piano; Tony Lombardozzi: guitar; Ed Howard: bass; Willard Dyson: drums.