What accounts for the ring of authenticity resonating through Giacomo Gates’ unaffected, yet affecting vocal craftsmanship is that the hipster, singer, and wordsmith from Connecticut always sounds as if he’s telling you all about life-shaping events and emotions that he himself has actually experienced and reflected upon.
Every song, whether sad or hilarious, sounds like a candid memoir, a true-life story in which, even amidst the saddest of blues laments, wit, hipness and spontaneity prevail in a world whose golden rule should be that “everything is cool.”
Aptly enough, Everything Is Cool is the name of Gates’ new album, which the Bridgeport native will celebrate on Friday, March 18, in performances at 7:00 and 9:00 pm at Waterbury’s Palace Theater Poli Club series, 100 East Main Street.
"Everything Is Cool" is a song by the pioneering bebop singer Babs Gonzalez, one of Gates’ early heroes.
"Everything Is Cool" was a categorical imperative back in the 1940s and '50s. It was an era when many of Gates’ bebop inspired idols were scatting and using vocalese as a launching pad to achieve the open-ended freedom enjoyed by horn players.
Besides Gonzalez, the host of early tradition-benders ranged from the hilariously mad, Dadaist master/humorist Slim Gaillard and the pyrotechnical Jon Hendricks to such valedictorians of vocalese as King Pleasure and Eddie Jefferson.
Gates, who packs his repertoire with variety and surprise, includes three other songs by Gonzalez along with "Who Threw the Glue?," a zany original; "Social Call," a classic by Gigi Gryce; and "Take Five" by Paul Desmond, with lyrics by Iola Brubeck.
Also getting the special swinging Gates treatment are selections by Thelonious Monk, Oscar Brown Jr., and, in a surprise, "Almost Blue" by Elvis Costello, and, in an even bigger surprise, an obscure number called "All Alone" by the ultimate hipster/humorist/satirist, Lenny Bruce.
Gates, the Sultan of Scat and Viceroy of Vocalese, is accompanied on the studio recording by a fine band featuring saxophonist Grant Stewart, pianist John di Martino, guitarist Tony Lombardozzi, bassist Ed Howard, and drummer Willard Dyson.
Released on Savant Records, a heroic bastion of mainstream jazz, Everything Is Cool is a creative follow-up of Gates’s two most recent and widely acclaimed releases, Miles Tones, a punningly titled homage to Miles Davis, and The Revolution Will Be Jazz: The Songs of Gil Scott-Heron, a title inspired by Scott-Heron’s composition, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."
For his Palace performance, Gates, the Royal Highness of Hipness, is backed by two courtier/collaborators, guitarist Tony Lombardozzi and bassist Jeff Fuller. Tickets: $27.00. Information: palacetheaterct.org and (203) 346-2000.
Jazzmeia Mania Reigns at Town Hall
Jazzmeia mania, the rising tide of fame and acclaim for the sensational singer Jazzmeia Horn, reigns in West Hartford Center on Saturday, April 16, at 7:00 pm as Dr. Steven Sussman presents the young phenom at his 19th annual Jazz for Juvenile Diabetes benefit dinner/concert at Town Hall at 50 South Main Street.
A native of Dallas, Texas, the Harlem-based singer, who’s only in her early twenties, has already made her mark as a rising star in New York City. Her dynamic, passionate style, soulful sound and savvy, swinging way with lyrics have already inspired comparisons with such divas as Sarah Vaughan, Betty Carter, and Nancy Wilson.
Jon Hendricks, America’s uber-grand patriarch of the art of the hip vocal, has declared that Horn “is one of the greatest vocalists I’ve heard in 40 years.”
Winner of the 2015 Thelonious Monk International Vocal Jazz Competition and the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, Horn studied at the elite Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and received her degree from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. She’s played from the Apollo and The Blue Note to Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola and the Zinc Bar, and performed with such luminaries as Billy Harper, Vincent Herring, and Ellis Marsalis.
Sussman, a Hartford-based radiologist, is also an expressive jazz photographer whose photos have appeared in Down Beat, Jazz Inside, AllAboutJazz, Jazz Improv, and other publications as well.
Besides having a keen eye for capturing resonating jazz images in the moment, he also has an unerring ear for selecting the best and the brightest for his concert series. Since its 1998 debut with the Eddie Gomez Trio, Jazz for Juvenile Diabetes has become one of Connecticut’s premier jazz events.
Year round, Sussman is on the lookout for his next headliner as he ventures out camera in hand -- a hip Hippocrates bearing Nikons for icons -- into his beloved jazz world.
Last year, the talent hunter hosted the red-hot French vocalist Cyrille Aimee, and the year before that, Cecile McLorin Salvant, another young diva soaring to fame.
His impressive list of vocal picks over the years has also included Karrin Allyson, Tierney Sutton, Roberta Gambarini, Curtis Stigers, Mark Murphy, Andy Bey, Kevin Mahogany, and Kurt Elling.
A jazz piano aficionado, Sussman has handpicked such keyboard headliners as Jacky Terrasson, Dena DeRose, who doubles on vocals; Eric Reed and Danilo Perez, plus such horn eminences as Anat Cohen and Grant Stewart.
Besides providing top-shelf jazz, the physician’s festive perennial simultaneously raises money for a most worthy cause and comes with a catered dinner, drinks, dessert, and coffee. Sussman’s soiree is also graced with an informal, intimate ambience that draws a devout congregation of serious listeners and like-minded true believers in the music.
Initially, the Little Series that Could started out in the family living room in Sussman’s West Hartford home. It outgrew that homey setting while maintaining its original warm, congenial, collegial atmosphere, a relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere that the musicians also love.
Dinner is catered by the noted chef Billy Grant of Grant’s, and Restaurant Bricco with dessert by Whole Foods in West Hartford Center. Hors d’oeuvres at 7:00 pm; dinner at 8:00 pm. The cordon bleu jazz fare cooked-up by Horn and her swinging sous chefs sizzles until 11:00. Tickets: $150. Proceeds benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Tickets and information: JDRF at (860) 470-0020 or Sussman at (860) 614-0770 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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