Connecticut, USA. Gates listened to classical and big band music from his very early years. He studied tap dancing, then guitar before starting to sing. He played guitar and sang during his teenage years and was heavily influenced by jazz singer Eddie Jefferson. After college, he worked on construction sites in Alaska but meanwhile performed at a music festival and attended master classes in Fairbanks, Alaska. There, farsighted faculty members urged him to move to where he could work as a singer. In 1989, he returned to Connecticut and became deeply involved in the local jazz scene. In 2001 and again in 2002, he was voted Talent Deserving Wider Recognition in DownBeat.
Gates revelatory recording debut, 1995s Blue Skies, attracted commercial and critical attention. Included on it was a lyric by Gates to a composition by Thelonious Monk and a solo by Charlie Rouse. The 1998 follow-up also included Gates lyrics to jazz solos,...