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Flying Fingers

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Album Review

Johnny Costa's second of four Chiaroscuro CDs was recorded between 1990 and 1992, featuring the longtime music director for the public television series Mr. Rogers Neighborhood playing solo piano. Though Costa was unfamiliar to most jazz fans who never saw the program, his tremendous chops, which show the influence of Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum, and others, tend to win listeners over quickly. These sessions primarily focus on standards from the swing era and earlier, among them venerable chestnuts like "Manhattan" and "Over the Rainbow." Later pieces include a playful "On Green Dolphin Street," a buoyant "Bluesette," and a pair of compelling originals. Costa also shares his thoughts about performing in a few minutes of spoken commentary at the conclusion of the CD.


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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