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Classic Costa - Unique Jazz Interpretations By the Legendary Johnny Costa

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Album Review

Johnny Costa's obscurity is due to his decision to spend his career playing background piano for many years on the children's show Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. This CD was his first unaccompanied solo session, and it makes one wonder what took so long. Nearly 70 at the time, Costa proves to be a virtuoso whose florid technique could be mistaken for cocktail piano if his mood variations and improvising skills did not eleveate the music. Sticking primarily to swing standards, Costa is best on the uptempo pieces (particularly "Get Happy"), where he strongly resembles his idol Art Tatum, but also hints at times at Oscar Peterson, Dave McKenna and George Shearing, in addition to showing off his interest in classical music. This CD, which is wrapped up by an effective eight-minute "Jazzspeak" during which Costa essentially gives his life story, is quite impressive and is his most rewarding jazz recording.


Born: 18 January 1922 in Arnold, PA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '80s, '90s

Johnny Costa made a number of fine recordings over his long musical career, but he will probably be better remembered for his musical contributions to television. After initially studying accordion in childhood, he took up the piano, studying with a teacher who had also taught Oscar Levant. Costa discovered he had perfect pitch and earned two college degrees in music education, though teaching was only a backup plan to his real goal of performing. He spent 15 years as music director for KDK-TV in...
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