May 1 | Nancy Marine Studio Theatre | 8:00 PM
Giacomo Gates does more than sing "a bunch of songs." He is truly an entertainer, for all ages and styles, as audiences enjoy the music, the interaction on the bandstand between him and his musicians, the spontaneity, the humor, the stories about the music and composers, along with their relation to everyday life. People are smiling, having a good time, while thoroughly enjoying the music. What usually lacks in most of today's performances is obviously present... fun!
Prior to that, Gates led the life of a hardworking blue collar "man's man." After a few years of working road construction as a laborer, tractor-trailer driver and bulldozer operator, Giacomo departed for the Alaskan wilderness in 1975, working for 14 years in a variety of jobs, including three years on the Alaska Pipeline. Whether he was doing road construction, operating scrapers, loaders and bulldozers, or driving spikes into railway tracks in the flatland emptiness of the tundra with no directional guides other than a compass and the sky, Gates found these experiences to be powerful stimulation for developing his own artistic expression.
Like his mentors, Gates would sometimes translate great instrumental solos into Vocalese, including the works of Thelonious Monk, Lee Morgan, Dexter Gordon, Chet Baker, Gene Ammons, Charlie Rouse and many others, also penning lyrics to classic jazz compositions. In citing his influences, Giacomo states "Some of my favorite singers are Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster and Lester Young. They were singing through the horn. If that isn't singing, I don't know what is!"
From that perspective, Giacomo sometimes vocalizes as an instrument - trombone, trumpet, bass and even drums. There's no contrivance or gimmickry for its own sake involved in this, as it's entirely conceived within the context of the music. Originally developed while working a steady duo gig with a pianist in Connecticut, Giacomo would improvise bass lines or drum sounds in support of the piano solos. Invited onstage by Jon Hendricks during a performance in 1995, Gates sang drums to Hendricks' bass accompaniment of the pianist. After that, the 'instrumental version' of his vocal became part of his program.
In June of 2004, Giacomo and Andy Bey joined Mark Murphy and Kurt Elling in Europe, performing with Kurt Elling's The Four Brothers vocal ensemble. Giacomo has also performed with such notables as Lou Donaldson, Freddie Hubbard, Richie Cole, Rufus Reid, Randy Brecker, Jon Faddis and many other world class performers. His primary focus has been leading his own groups, which has taken him all over the U.S. and other parts of the world.
Playing major U.S. clubs, New York's Birdland, Smoke, Jazz Standard, Blue Note, and Dizzy's, Philadelphia's Chris' Jazz Cafe, Blues Alley and The Kennedy Center in D.C., Scullers in Boston and Snug Harbor in New Orleans, Dazzles in Denver, The Jazz Bakery in LA, Pearl's in San Francisco; and major festivals like Detroit/Montreux, Telluride, Caramoor, Sedona, Rochester, Syracuse, Clearwater, Fairbanks Summer Arts, California's Jazz at the Plazz, and New York's Lost Shrine Series; and at countless universities and jazz societies, Giacomo's enormous appeal and popularity are obvious from the many repeat engagements he has had at these venues.