Giacomo Gates didn't decide to make a career of music until 1990, at age 40, and his debut recording appeared five years later. Since then he has established himself as a member in good standing of the ever-so-exclusive club of male jazz singers.
With "Centerpiece," Gates takes another leap forward, with a wide ranging repertoire demonstrating his many vocal skills and the natural appeal of his deeply resonant baritone instrument.
On Gershwin's "Summertime," he playfully expands on the staid DuBose Heyward lyric and improvises a whistling "flute" solo with solid support from bassist Ray Drummond. A born storyteller, he introduces "I Told You I Love You, Now Get Out" by relating a personal experience, and later responds with a horn-like scat solo, as pianist Harold Danko expertly comps. Guitarist Vic Juris comps and solos through the bluesy title track, as Gates impressively stretches the Jon Hendricks lyric a few beats ahead.
"How High The Moon/Ornithology" gets a mid-tempo bop workout, featuring an undulating scat solo and an alto sax statement by Vincent Herring. Gates shows his romantic inclinations and delivers a convincing "trombone" solo on the ballad "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To." His brilliant take on "All Of Me" is actually a King Pleasure lyric, inspired by an Illinois Jacquet solo.
Herring and Danko shine in their solo spots on the swinging "Lady Bird." The great lyric by Stanley Cornfield is given a breezy, rubato rendering by Gates. The storyteller returns with a narrative introduction that sets the mood for this very hip rendition of Bobby Troup's classic "Route 66." The mood is languorous and loungey, wistful and warm on "Scotch & Soda."
The tempo accelerates again on "Lester Leaps In/I Got The Blues," with a lyric by Eddie Jefferson, based on a James Moody tenor solo and incorporating a verse from "I Got Rhythm." Gates' own lyrical skills come into play on Miles Davis' "Milestones," which he imagines as a commentary on living in the moment.
Gates bids a bluesy farewell with "Hittin' The Jug/Swan Song," emphasizing the Gene "Jug" Ammons tenor solo, over the King Pleasure lyric.
Here's hoping that Gates and his musical gifts won't be away too long.