Gates is the only singer on the scene to date who has embraced the vocalise style of Eddie Jefferson, putting lyrics to already established solos. That alone should earn him a Congressional Medal of Honor, for no one else is plying this tricky craft. As a singer, he has a full, deep, manly voice that is still in a maturation process, with slightly flatted tones. He can sing up a storm, rant on a bebop lick, or shape a ballad quite sweetly. Rhythm section help comes from pianist Harold Danko, bassist Rufus Reid, and drummer Akira Tana. There are several combo tunes, like Gates á la Jefferson's rendition of "Lady Be Good" and "Disappointed" put together, going from hopeful to crestfallen in one fell swoop of slow blues. "Blue Skies" follows "In Walked Bud," Jon Hendricks' lyric on the latter, and Gates handles it nicely. An easy swing and scat bridge defines "What Price Love?" informed by Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite" with Jefferson's lyric and Danko's dancing piano. Of the extrapolative numbers, Gates waxes beatnik poetic with his lyrics on "Five Cooper Square," aka Thelonious Monk's "Five Spot Blues," speaking of the history of bop to hard bop figures of the day, spurred on by saxophonist Jerome Richardson's all-inclusive runs. "Waitin'" is Matt Emerzian's music and Gates' words about "standing in the rain, waitin' for you," and his blues-drenched pain is easily felt. Another Hendricks lyric on "Four" is done to a T; Gates shines on this one. It begins with only he and Danko in rubato mode, then the band jumps in and swings hard. There's a Steve Allen classic "Meet Me Where They Play the Blues" with a pretty cool scat bridge, the love song "No, Not Much" where Gates mimics a trumpet, and a straight read of "It's the Talk of the Town," which shows the singer at his doleful, reticent, pleading best. This CD wreaks of potential; it's not perfect, but it's close enough for jazz. Surely Gates will work on his craft. He has all the tools to become a universally accepted singer.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos