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It was 2008, in Toronto, Canada, when Mark Ruffin asked me if I dug Gil Scott-Heron.
I responded, “Of course, I remember when he first hit.”
He said, “I want to produce a recording of Gil’s tunes, and I want you to sing it.”
Mark is a huge fan of Gil, and sends me about forty-five GSH songs. I listen and we talk about the music and the messages.
Mark gave me the room to choose, and we come up with 10 tunes. I live with them for a while. We put together a group of musicians that jelled impeccably, a wonderful chemistry and vibe (check the personnel), and Gil always said that he “came out of jazz.”
Mark approaches Joe Fields of HighNote/Savant Records. Joe listens, and gives the ‘go-ahead’.
It’s Mark’s plan for us to both go to Gil’s apartment in Harlem when the record releases. It’s not a tribute album, it’s a gift. What a plan! The sad news is, Gil passes away. Three weeks before the CD drops on May 2011. Much too early for Gil to leave the planet. The Revolution Will Be Jazz reached #1 for 8 weeks on National Jazz Playlist.
Mark and I collaborate on the next three releases by Savant: In 2013, Savant releases Miles’ Tones – Gates Sings the Music of Miles Davis, which reaches #1 for 6 weeks on National Jazz Playlist. Everything Is Cool is released in 2015, and stays in the Top Ten for 12 weeks. What Time Is It? releases in 2017, and Jazz Radio is again very generous with their spins, keeping it in the Top Ten for 10 weeks.
I’m happy to remain on the roster of Savant, and in late summer, Savant will be releasing my fifth release, titled YOU.
Ten years later, we still miss Gil. — Giacomo Gates