Giacomo Gates at The Mainstay July 1


Giacomo Gates

Vocal fireworks kick off the holiday week as jazz singer Giacomo Gates takes the stage at The Mainstay in Rock Hall, Saturday July 1 at 8 p.m. Admission is $22 if purchased in advance and $25 at the door. 

Giacomo Gates is an authentic jazz vocalist steeped in the traditions of classic vocal improvisers from Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald to their modern counterparts like Betty Carter and Leon Thomas. He is a jazz singer with the poise of a showman, the zeal of an aficionado and to quote the New York Times, a “deep, cognac baritone” with a “vintage-hipster lexicon.” His approach draws most heavily from the bebop-rooted masters like Jon Hendricks and Eddie Jefferson.

With his phrasing, his bearing and a deceptively easy nonchalance, Gates has made a specialty out of vocalese, the jazz practice of setting original lyrics to melodies that were originally part of an all-instrumental composition or a musician’s improvisation. He will be joined at The Mainstay by Fred Hughes on piano, John Pineda on bass and Frank Russo on drums.

Gates is often described as a “late-bloomer.” He didn’t hit major jazz stages and come to the attention of the public until 1990 at the age of 40. He has said, “In this kind of music it’s about intention, honesty and what comes through in your voice–the Experience of Life.” His life experience is certainly different from most jazz artists.  After many years driving school buses, cattle transporters and 18-wheelers, Gates went to Alaska and spent 14 years in a variety of jobs, including three years on the Alaska Pipeline. He worked road construction, operating heavy equipment and on railroad construction.

Gates found these experiences to be powerful stimulation for developing his own artistic expression. “Two things always struck me out there,” he says of that experience, “feeling insignificant and feeling very alive.” With severe risk to life and limb from all sorts of dangers ranging from geographic disorientation to heavy machinery accidents to hungry polar bears, Gates was confronted with sights, sounds and experiences that had a profound effect upon his being, and therefore his art.

Gates sang and played guitar as a teen and towards the end of his years in Alaska began playing wherever he could but opportunities were limited. Local and visiting performers encouraged him to pursue a career as a singer and he decided to return to his native Connecticut and devote full attention to music.

He has since played such major U.S. clubs as New York’s Birdland, Blue Note, and Dizzy’s, Blues Alley and The Kennedy Center in D.C., and Snug Harbor in New Orleans and major festivals like Detroit/Montreux, Telluride, Caramoor, Sedona, California’s Jazz at the Plazz, and New York’s Lost Shrine Series; and at countless universities and jazz societies. His international touring includes several tours of Russia, Italy and Belgium, teaching in Europe, three Australian tours and doing a Coca Cola commercial in Madrid.

Gates has seven heavily acclaimed CDs. His most recent “What Time Is It?” was released this Spring. The previous releases, “The Revolution Will Be Jazz-The Songs of Gil Scott-Heron” reached #1 for six weeks on National Jazz Playlist, and “MilesTones” was #1 for four weeks! “Everything Is Cool” reached #8…all three spent over three months in the Top 20 of the Jazz Week Charts, on over 300 stations.

Like all seriously committed jazz artists, Giacomo Gates is a student of the music’s great legacy. Known for his interaction with audiences through witty patter and informative introductions, every performance becomes an entertaining lesson in jazz history.

The Mainstay (Home of Musical Magic) is the friendly informal storefront performing arts center on Rock Hall’s old time Main Street. It is a 501(c)(3), nonprofit dedicated to the arts, serving Rock Hall and the surrounding region. It is committed to presenting local, regional and national level talent, at a reasonable price, in an almost perfect acoustic setting. Wine, beer, sodas and snacks are available at the bar.

The Mainstay is supported by ticket sales, fundraising including donations from friends and audience members and an operating grant from the Maryland State Arts Council.

Information and advance ticket sales are available at the Mainstay’s website. Reservations to pay at the door can be made by calling 410-639-9133.

Write a Letter to the Editor on this Article

We encourage readers to offer their point of view on this article by submitting the following form. Editing is sometimes necessary and is done at the discretion of the editorial staff.