A product of vocally imitating complex bop solos, vocalese grew into a respectable singular art form under its most famous practitioners, King Pleasure and Eddie Jefferson. On the swinging Centerpiece, Giacomo Gates uses these two giants as touchstones and makes the genre his own.
In addition to his deep, rich tonal quality, Gates' impressive vocal arsenal includes whistling, scat and mood-inducing intros. He uses these talents to lead us through a delightfully varied program consisting of ballads, blues and bop. Things begin with an easy "Summertime" groove that has the Gershwin classic stripped down by Ray Drummond's bass, only to be kicked up a notch by pianist Harold Danko's chords and Greg Bandy's drumming. Danko's chordal backdrops augment tunes like Tadd Dameron's lyricised "Lady Bird," while his solo breaks inventively explore standards like "All of Me."
The trio traverses the diverse program in style and guest appearances by guitarist Vic Juris and saxophonist Vincent Herring do much to expand the overall soundscape. Juris uses his guitar to color both the title cut and the Gene Ammons/King Pleasure classic "Hittin the Jug/Swan Song" blue, while Herring's sax solo sweetly complements Gates' vocalese on "How High the Moon/Ornithology" and swings with him on "Lady Bird." Herring then takes things a little more out on "Milestones" as Gates expertly executes his own inventively composed lyrical interpretation of the Miles Davis classic.
Cole Porter's "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To" is given a laid back treatment that includes a pleasingly expressive mouth trombone solo before Gates leisurely drives from Chicago to L.A. by way of "Route 66." Gates uses the instrumental quality of his voice to effortlessly navigate the challenging phrasing, exacting lyric and precise tempo demands of Centerpiece to create an engaging, fun-filled session.