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Giacomo Gates – What Time Is It? – Savant Records

Giacomo Gates – What Time Is It? – Savant Records SCD2157 43:31****:

An intriguing session for the hip — certainly not for the hipsters

(Giacomo Gates – vocals; Jerry Weldon – tenor saxophone; John Di Martino – piano; Tony Lombardozzi – guitar; Lonnie Plaxico – bass; Vincent Ector – drums)

Giacomo Gates is hip (cooler than cool) but he is not a hipster (a person who follows the latest fashions and trends). When your hip, deciding what to record is a challenge since the tried and true might not always work. Gates avoids these song clichés for the most part, and delivers an intriguing session under the title What Time Is It?

Using his rich baritone to full effect, and after a spoken introduction about clocks and watches to What Time Is It?, Gates swings into “ I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” with guitarist Tony Lombardozzi giving the fret board a work-out, followed by tenor saxophonist Jerry Weldon showing his full tone. Todd Dameron’s “On a Misty Night” is an expressive delight that after a run though of the verses, Gates takes off with a verbal ad lib based on these verses.

Back in 1957, when the doo-wop musical genre was in its ascendancy, The Rays recorded “Silhouettes” a simple four verse tune. Gates ups the tempo to a sprightly swinger with the story line broken by a tasteful tenor sax solo from Weldon  after the first two verses and then Gates follows with key changes on the last two verses which makes the trite story far more musically interesting. A rather lengthy poem by Tom Robbins called Meet Me In Cognito is the basis for Gates’ tune “In Cognito” but with his own spin on the stanzas and order. With the band cooking behind him, Gates proves that poetic quatrains can swing.

Continuing with his cool frame of mind, Gates dives into a couple of unconventional numbers starting with Betty Carter’s “I Can’t Help It” followed by Eddie Jefferson’s “Disappointed”. On the former Gates strings out the ballad with a sensitive reading, with Weldon showing his reflective empathy with the theme. On the latter, it opens with four brief interacts with piano, guitar, a scat vocal, tenor sax, then Gates weaves Jefferson’s lyrics in a clever fashion based on Charlie Parker’s solo on Lady Be Good.

When given a choice in male vocalists between hip and homogenized, hip is generally the better choice.

TrackList:
I Didn’t Know What Time It Was
On A Misty Night
Somebody Buy Me A Drink
Silhouettes
In Cognito
Mr. Kicks
A Few Bucks Ahead
I Can’t Help It
Disappointed
Spinnin’(Speedball); Too Many Things

—Pierre Giroux

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