Personnel: Giacomo Gates (vocals); Vic Juris (guitar); Vincent Herring (alto saxophone); Harold Danko (piano); Ray Drummond (double bass); Greg Bandy (drums).
Centerpiece is the third album from Connecticut-based crooner Giacomo Gates. This is full-fledged jazz lounge singing at its contemporary best. The songs are standards from throughout the timeline of jazz, but with an extra ounce of emphasis on some of the writers: Cole Porter, Eddie Jefferson, and King Pleasure. There are clear echoes in Gates' technique of Sinatra at times, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross methods at times, and maybe a bit of Joe Williams on some of the bop standards. With these echoes and influences in hand, Gates then fuses them into a coherent style of his own. The great thing here, beyond being able to mimic aspects of the greats, is his ability to jump from style to style along the way and claim the songs for himself. In "Route 66," he slows the pace down to a lazy croon. In "I Got the Blues," he picks up the phrasing to a jumping bop format very reminiscent of a sped-up round of some of the Dizzy Gillespie/Joe Carroll classics. The forward drive is only enhanced as he smashes into a lyricized version of "Milestones" (which also features some exceptional solos from the band). The album is an exceptional take on vocal jazz, which tends to lose its sheer power and fun in favor of sentimentality in many new artists. Gates reclaims the fun of it and keeps the technical aspects at peak performance to boot. Definitely worth picking up for any fan of older styles of vocal jazz, and most likely for fans of contemporary vocal jazz to get a glimpse of a different take. ~ Adam Greenberg