First Listen: Giacomo Gates “The Revolution Will be Jazz – the Songs of Gil Scott-Heron”

When Gil Scott-Heron passed away this past May, the world lost a unique voice that introduced a new way of performing, which influenced hip-hop from as far back as the late 1960s. His blend of spoken world poetry, jazz, soul and the blues exposed listeners to a consciousness that was far ahead of its time.

Though his most famous song, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” is known across the world, Scott-Heron was also a keen observer of the human condition outside of politics. It is mostly those more intimate songs that the great vocalist Giacomo Gates chose to include on this delightful new album.

From “Show Business” and “Legend in His Own Mind” to “Madison Avenue,” Gates’ deeply soulful voice exposes the lyricism and insight contained within Scott-Heron’s compositions.

Gates is known as the modern day heir to Eddie Jefferson, the godfather of vocalese. Here he uses the style, which is often compared to scat singing, to great advantage. But he never showboats using the challenging technique. It is always in service of the song. Because Gates chooses to let the songs speak for themselves, he reveals himself as a true fan of Scott-Heron.

Though Gil Scott-Heron wasn’t best known for his singing abilities, he had a unique way around a melody. Gates demonstrates the intrinsic genius in these compositions by bring world-class talent to the production, which is clearly a labor of love. I should also mention the contributions of the highly sympathetic band that Gates and the producer, Mark Ruffin, have assembled. Anchored by the in-demand studio bassist Lonnie Plaxico and Vincent Ector on drums, the group, which also includes the incredibly tasty guitarist Tony Lombardozzi, fleshes out these songs with aplomb. Special mention should also go to the pianist (and whistler) John Di Martino and the flautist Claire Daly who make “Winter in America,” one of most prescient songs Scott-Heron ever wrote, a tour-de-force.

If you love Gil Scott-Heron you will love this album.

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