Jazz CDs of the Month: Giacomo Gates / Miles Tones & Dave Stryker / Blue To The Bone IV

Apr 1, 2013

Giacomo Gates – Miles Tones – Savant SCD 2124

The music of Miles Davis, so firmly entrenched in the instrumental heart and soul of jazz music, has also been embellished with lyrics in several instances. Vocalist Giacomo Gates' latest release gathers a variety of these selections and serves them with his inimitable stylings and superb musical accompaniment.

“Miles Tones”, a clever play on the Davis number “Milestones”, aptly describes the feel of this recording that includes both Miles Davis compositions and other numbers associated with him. The album opens with Davis's classic “All Blues”, set-up by Lonnie Plaxico's bass and featuring Oscar Brown, Jr.'s marvelous lyrics. Gates takes you along for a pleasing bit of vocalese preceding some fine guitar work from Dave Stryker making for an attractive cooker to open the album. “Be-Bop Lives”, with Gates again supplementing lyrics with vocalese, also features Freddie Hendrix's trumpet. Next up comes the swinging Davis number “Four” to which Jon Hendricks wrote lyrics. Dave Stryker and John DiMartino get their licks in on this track. “Milestones” features lyrics from Jim Britt written many years ago for Mark Murphy and affords a sailing vehicle for Gates' singing and vocalese with nice statements from Hendrix, Stryker and DiMartino. “So What” features the “Godfather of Vocalese” Eddie Jefferson's sensate lyrics alluding to Miles Davis's stage demeanor and strikes a solid groove with great instrumental statements.

Among selections from the Davis repertoire is the beautiful treatment of “I Fall In Love Too Easily” with Gates rendering a sensitive reading and Hendrix dropping some delectable notes with his trumpet. “You're My Everything” and Thelonious Monk's “'Round Midnight” also embellish the program. “Miles Tones” is yet another solid release from Giacomo Gates who follows in the tradition of Eddie Jefferson and Mark Murphy and ranks with contemporary vocalist Kurt Elling in delivering unique projects that evoke the heritage of jazz artists and represent their presence in our time with decidedly unique and enjoyable performances.

Giacomo Gates – vocals

Freddie Hendrix – trumpet

John DiMartino – piano

Dave Stryker – guitarist

Lonnie Plaxico – bass

Vincent Ector – drums

Tracks: All Blues; Be-Bop Lives; Four; Round Midnight; I Fall In Love Too Easily; TuTu; MilesTones; You're My Everything; So What; Walkin'.

Dave Stryker – Blue To The Bone IV – SteepleChase 31755

As the title suggests, here is the fourth edition of Dave Stryker's Blue To The Bone Band, an organization he has recorded with upon occasions since 1996. Omaha-native Dave Stryker is primarily a jazz artist although he has impressive blues-based credentials and chops. The Blue To The Bone Band is a framework wherein the freedom of jazz improvisation blends with the roots in eminently captivating arrangements. That's a pretty irresistible combination and the quality of Stryker's band adds impact to the rhythmic concept. Add to a number of Stryker originals compositions by the Isley Brothers, Robert Johnson, Nat Adderley and James Brown and one has the basis for a solid set of music.

The program gets right after things with “Blues Strut” and the richly voiced horn section prompting a solo from the leader. Stryker's full-toned Gibson guitar sound is his resonant voice and he's clearly getting down to business. There's plenty of fine horn work from the band with frequent Stryker collaborator Steve Slagle laying out some fluid alto lines. Freddie Hendrix steps up with a nicely elicited trumpet solo, followed by Vincent Garnder's trombone and baritone saxophone burner Gary Smulyan. Jared Gold then lays the icing on the musical cake with his Hammond B3 sound - fat and sassy.

Stryker's “Workin'” comes on as a straight-ahead burner that once more affords a wonderful improvisatory vehicle for the band – Stryker out front with smoke rising from the guitar strings and the horns each contributing aggressive and concise solos once more. The Robert Johnson number “Come On In My Kitchen” takes us to the basic blues and showcases Stryker's exquisite sound and blues chops. Stryker's composition “Blues For Brother Jack” harks to one of his early employers, organist Brother Jack McDuff. Indeed, Dave Stryker was fortunate to have apprenticed in the bands of some of the great names in jazz such as McDuff and Stanley Turrentine, that is clearly evidenced in his capacity to get right after a groove, no time wasted, and to create complex yet accessible solos constituting Grade A ear food.

That's just a taste of what is in store on this excellent session. Blue To The Bone IV, Stryker's twenty-sixth date as a leader, is seasoned with superb musicianship, good grooves and exhibits that enduring capacity of the blues to lift one to another level of exhilaration.

Dave Stryker – guitar
Freddie Hendrix – trumpet
Steve Slagle – alto sax
Vincent Gardner – trombone
Gary Smulyan – bari sax
Jared Gold – Hammond B3 organ
McClenty Hunter – drums

Tracks: Blues Strut; Workin’; For the Love of You; Come On In My Kitchen; Big Foot; Blue’s For Brother Jack; Shades Ahead; Fun; Soul Power