Giacomo Gates: Luminosity (2008)
"Begin at the beginning," the King told the White Rabbit, "and go on until you come to the end. Then stop." Normally, that's good advice, except in the case of Luminosity, a sparkling CD/DVD package that proves Giacomo Gates is all about commitmentto his listeners, to his fellow musicians (past and present), and to jazz and its history.
The DVD features a four-song excerpt from Gates' 2005 appearance at San Francisco's legendary club Jazz at Pearl's. But following that mini-set is the real prize of this package: "Influences, Concepts and Ruminations," a bonus feature that shows Gates discoursing about the songs and artists that have inspired him ever since he got his first taste of jazz from Dave Brubeck's Time Out (Columbia, 1959). Mind you, it's not necessary to watch this interview in order to enjoy Luminosity; Gates is always a treat to listen to whether he's on disc or in concert, and that's the way it is here. However, the insights and context "Influences" offers really puts Gates' overall performance in perspective.
First there are the artists, of whom Gates feels as passionately about today as he did when he first heard them: "Peace of Mind (Let's Cool One)" has Gates dispensing soothing advice over the startling music of Thelonious Monk; "What Am I Here For" combines Duke Ellington's music and Jon Hendricks' lyrics, doubling Gates' obvious pleasure; "Someone's Rocking My Dreamboat" lets Gates give shout-outs to Bugs Bunny and the Ink Spots; and Gates scores a three-fer with "Lady be Good/Disappointed"a merry mashup of the Gershwins' music, the solo from Charlie Parker's take on "Lady," and the Eddie Jefferson lyric inspired by Parker's solo.
Then there are the lyrics, which gives Gates the stories he loves to tell: In a spoken-word intro to Bobby Troup's "Hungry Man" (one of several spoken intros on the studio set), Gates links Troup's love of travelhe wrote "Route 66"with his love of fine food; Gates frames Dickie Thompson's "Me, Spelled M-E, Me" as a late-night infomercial for romance; and Gates shapes the questions Jimi Hendrix' alien protagonist asks during "Up From The Skies" into a snapshot-fast blast about global warming.
Gates is up-front about not having "an act": He knows what he's going to do in a general sense, but a lot of it is left up to the moment. That puts Gates and his band out on the wire, possibly without a net below. But the result is an unparalleled level of trust and respect, which raises all the performances to a higher level on both the studio side and the live side.
As Gates himself says, "There's gotta be a connection. Otherwise, I might as well stay home and sing." That connection would have been solid if Luminosity had only been a studio disc. But with the DVD, the listener not only makes the visual connection, but also connects with why Gates does what he does andultimatelysees why he does it so well.
Track Listing: CD: Comes Love; Me, Spelled M-E, Me; Peace of Mind (Let's Cool One); Melodious Funk; The Beginning of the End; Hungry Man; The Blues are Out of Town; Romancin' the Blues; Someone's Rockin' My Dreamboat; Up from the Skies; What Am I Here For; PS. I Love You; Full of Myself.
DVD: Melodious Funk; Lady Be Good/Disappointed; Since I Fell for You; Billie?s Bounce; Influences, Concepts and Ruminations (a conversation with Giacomo Gates).
Personnel: CD: Giacomo Gates: vocal; John diMartino: piano; Ray Drummond: bass; Greg bandy: drums; Bob Kindred: tenor sax; Tony Lombardozzi: guitar.
DVD: Giacomo Gates: vocal; Larry Dunlap: piano; Aaron Gelman: bass; Jeff Marrs: drums; John Gove: trombone.