2:02.75. That might have been what longshot "Giacomo" (at 50-1) took to win the Kentucky Derby back in 2005. However, it will take longerjust short of an hourto realize that this
thoroughbred Giacomo rides home a winner with What Time Is It?
. Hold the oats and roses and grab the ear buds.
Giacomo Gates, the
consummate Hipster's Hipster, carries the Bop-Scat-Vocalese torch superbly hereone carried previously by greats Babs Gonzales King Pleasure
, Eddie Jefferson
, Oscar Brown Jr.
and its High Priest, Jon Hendricks
over 11 word-intensive selections, each of which is a gem.
A resonant, rich-with-an-edge baritone, Gates covers the ersatz title tune, "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," following a slick, tickety-tockety-supported talk-over. From this easy-swinging starting gate, Gates shows he's a pure
jazz singer whose own time-sense, phrasing, and lyric expression are as genuine as they are substantial. He's in command musically throughout and dispenses no horse-hockey in doing so. He's also brazenly giftedhe covers the old 1950s Rays hit, "Silhouettes," as a light, strollin' swinger in which Gatesdemonstrating a knack for singing a storyand his crew show that they can make something rich and tasteful out of window shades, shadows, and innocent love.
Joined by fine sax man Jerry Weldon
(who offers tasty solos throughout the album) and backed by a very swinging and involved rhythm unit, Gates channels Oscar Brown, Jr. twice with a solid send-up of the sopped-up tale of a lush life, "Somebody Buy Me a Drink" and the devilish, "Mr. Kicks." It's in this genreand also on Artt Frank's "A Few Bucks Ahead" and on the "Lady Be Good" contrafact
, "Disappointed"where his words are hip, pungent, and seasoned with soul. There's no lovey-dovey here, but genuine, certainly Post Office Bulletin Board-worthy badass jazz singing.
On the straight-ahead burner (and arguably the album's highlight piece), "In Cognito," Gates swings heavy over Tom Robbins' Beat-inspired poetry. Pianist John di Martino
, guitarist, Tony Lombardozzi
, bassist Lonnie Plaxico
, and drummer Vincent Ector
cook and let you know they're the gassers in that fire. The tune, a Gates original melody, was recently featured over the closing credits of actor Chris Cordone's celebrated film, Stevie D
. On Betty Carter's "I Can't Help It" Gates extracts every ounce of the sweet rhy-thm-ic juice from melody and lyric. The talk-over closer, "Too Many Things" ties a thought-provoking, philosophical bow on the enjoyable session.
With Mark Murphy
departed for gigs in the Upper Room and so many male vocalists leaning safe, smooth-looking, and saccharine, What Time Is It?
firmly establishes that now's the time that Giacomo Gates emerges as the odds-on favorite as the Hipster Supreme
sent to deliver the Word. And, that Word is "winner," as in Giacomoboth man and horse. Bet on it.