Jazz From Aspen interview: GIACOMO GATES
“In this kind of music it’s about intention, honesty and what comes through in your voice – the Experience of Life” – Giacomo Gates
“If it don’t feel right, then there’s probably something wrong” (attributed to some of the jazz greats, Monk, Miles, Duke, Louie Armstrong)
Jazz Vocalist Giacomo (pronounced CHA-co-mo) Gates was exposed to music in early childhood, and sang and played guitar through his teen years, but it was for the love of the music, not as a vocation. It wasn’t until the late 80’s, after he had led the life of a “hardworking blue collar man” for over a decade that he decided to take his life experiences, musical activities & artistic vision and return to his native Connecticut to devote his full attention to music.
Giacomo sometimes vocalizes as an instrument – trombone, trumpet, basses and even drums. He also sometimes translates great instrumental solos into ‘Vocalese’, defined as “a style of jazz singing wherein words are sung to melodies that were originally part of an all-instrumental composition or improvisation. Whereas scat singing uses improvised nonsense syllables, Vocalese uses lyrics” (Wikipedia). Examples of Vocalese can be found on the song “Fly Rite” from the album of the same name, and on the song “Hittin The Jug” from his Centerpiece album.
Giacomo is best known for singing a lyric to a melody that originally did not have vocals. Check out “Milestones” from Gates’ “Miles Tones” tribute album to Miles Davis (Gates wrote the lyrics). Check out his scat singing and jazz interpretation of Gil Scott Heron’s, “This Is A Prayer For Everbody To Be Free”.
Citing his influences, Gates says, “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!” note: all three were jazz tenor saxophonists, not jazz vocalists.
Gates has released six albums to date, with another one on the way. His “Miles Tones” and “The Revolution Will Be Jazz” both topped the national jazz charts.
Note: The first five minutes of this interview were broadcast on “Jazz From Aspen” on Aspen Public Radio, March 4, 2014. Soundcloud audio file of Jazz From Aspen show available here on SoundCloud. Playlist listing of songs played on the show available here