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Miles Davis tribute mixes it up

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Giacomo Gates
Andrzej Pilarczyk
Giacomo Gates Andrzej Pilarczyk

Singer Giacomo Gates is having a good time with themes, but does not want to turn them into patterns.

His current album, “Miles Tones,” is a collection of Miles Davis hits, given lyrics by writers from Jon Hendricks to Al Jarreau. At gigs such as the one July 21 at the James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy on the North Side, he will do a number of songs from the album, but he does not restrict himself to them.

“We don't want to do the album and nothing else,” he says. “That would get kind of boring, show after show.”

At the same time, his past two albums have been theme-oriented and quite successful. “Miles Tones” spent four weeks at the top of jazz playlists earlier in 2013. His last album, “The Next Revolution Will Be Jazz,” is a homage to composer Gil Scott-Heron and was six weeks at the top in 2011.

Such popularity would supply a reason to focus on that music, but he would rather mix it up. He says creating a blend in performance “adds an element of spontaneity, and I always hate to see that disappear.”

Gates is well-known for creating a blend of music with his baritone. He is a classic jazz singer, often delving into long scat passages. His material most often comes from jazz standards, material from the Great American Songbook and show tunes.

He will be performing here with drummer Roger Humphries, guitarist Marty Ashby and bassist Tony DePaolis.

Gates often will create lyrics for instrumental tunes or use famous ones created by other performers, such as Eddie Jefferson. Gates says understanding the direction of a song is a necessity to writing appropriate words.

For instance, Davis' “Milestones” is a reference to markers, so why not do measurement-oriented words? He then came up with a reference to “yardsticks, meters, inches, liters,” and ways of measuring life.

“The lyrics can come from anywhere,” he says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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