A Place For Jazz
September 29, 2006
by Tom Pierce
On Friday Sept 29, 2006 the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady's magnificent venue, the Whisperdome, reverberated with the sounds of Jazz singer par excellence, Giacomo Gates and his trio. The concert certainly extended the 21st century unbroken circle of exceptional Jazz vocalists presented annually there by A Place For Jazz (APFJ) - starting with Rebecca Parris in 2001, followed annually in succession by Rene Marie, Patti Wicks, Philip Manuel and Roseanna Vitro, in 2005.
Gates has been recognized for over 15 years as an outstanding vocalist, not only by the public, who've enjoyed his 3 CD's - Blue Skies, Fly Rite and Centerpiece; but also respected by fellow artists, such as the accepted gold standard of living male Jazz singers - Mark Murphy, Jon Hendricks & Kurt Elling who have selected him on occasion to join their Four Brothers act for international concerts.
His Whisperdome performance last Friday, aided by a sterling trio of Tony Lombardozzi on guitar, Rick Petrone on bass and Joe Corsello, drums, more than exceeded expectations. Mr Lombardozzi particularly stood out, in adding beautiful obbligato fills behind Mr Gates, playing interesting solos and very touching endings.
The first set jump started the evening with a cleanly articulated and swinging version of Eddie Vinson's (often credited instead to Miles Davis) Four, with the deceptively simple but incontestably appropriate Jon Hendricks lyrics saluting the importance of Truth, Honor, Happiness and Love. The audience immediately came alive, as they recognized they were in for a memorable evening, not only of the phrasing, effective vocalese tributes to timeless instrumental solos and inventive scatting many expected, but also a resonantly rich voice, that could easily be appreciated even by those not as taken by the jazzier elements.
Over and above his sheer vocal talent, his success in engaging listeners was facilitated by a seemingly effortless, but enormously expressive way of introducing songs. His ability to consistently set up each song, with just the right amount of meaningful, inside information, in a relaxed, natural and witty manner had the audience in the palm of his hands. This started with his humorous preface to the second tune, Baby You Should Know It about a fellow's inability to open up to tell his lady that he loved her.
With Oliver Nelson's Stolen Moments and the Gershwins' Lady be Good, the crowd was drawn more and more into his performance, by his relaxed, but enthralling persona, which was assured, but not cocky or false like a Vegas lounge act. Of note also was his captivating body language, which swayed with the excellent rhythm section and easily took the stance that would have been assumed by whichever instrumentalist his scatting was based on, including that of a Flutist, while delightfully whistling a solo on Summertime.
Special mention should also be made of his dynamic, tour de force treatment in the second set of Dizzy Gillespie's Night in Tunisia, allied with the drumming of Joe Corsello; as well as the invigorating & charming counterpoint duet with guest vocalist Jody Shayne of How High the Moon and Ornithology, a special highlight of the evening for her friends and fans in attendance. Also of interest was his distinctive scatting of Bass solos, either alone, or in tandem with his swinging bassist, Rick Petrone such as on Blue Skies.
This review however would be remiss if it did not also accentuate his straight vocalizing, which was warm, sensitive and well modulated. On ballads like the poignant standard P.S. I Love You; The Beginning of the End (a seldom heard, but very touching song) that he intimately delivered seated from the front step of the stage) and the lovingly chiding Girl Talk, his projection and interpretation was unfailingly convincing and moving.
In summary, as exciting and essential as his Jazz attributes (swinging, improvising and feeling for the blues) were that night, Giacomo Gates was also (and perhaps, more importantly), simply a very accomplished professional singer, of the highest order.
Tom Pierce has had a burning passion for Jazz for over 45 years, initiated and fueled by seeing live in New York City, starting in the early 1960's, virtually every major artist still performing. He's been very happily living in Guilderland the last 5 years, as an active retiree sharing his love of music by writing online reviews for a number of web sites, preparing DVD presentations to various groups, co-Hosting Radio programs showcasing his favorite artists and busily supporting A Place for Jazz and the SwingTime Society in a variety of ways.