Monday, July 19, 2010

Boy Wonder

If you're a guy who plays the piano in pop music, your predecessors loom large, because they are so few. Who comes to mind for you? Elton John in his high platform shoes? Billy Joel? Of course, I love Randy Newman (but don't expect his image to pop into many minds). If you're younger than me, perhaps you think of Ben Folds or Jamie Cullum.

I have been listening to a singer/songwriter piano player that may hit it very big one day. He's still in his twenties, and he has loads of talent. He recorded his first jazz album while still in his teens. A second one, filled mostly with standards like the first, was released soon thereafter. These releases brought Peter Cincotti acclaim in jazz circles but with his third release, 2007's East of Angel Town, it's obvious that he seeks wider attention.

His producer, David Foster, thinks he will earn it, and so do I, although this release didn't break him out anywhere near to the extent they'd hoped. But that's more due to a fractured musical marketplace than the music itself. Raw talent like Cincotti's will eventually have its day.

Cincotti wrote all the music on East of Angel Town, and song after song displays a strong, swinging sound that grabs you after its initial jolt. The music feels so operatic and over-the-top at times that my wife sung a great rejoinder after first hearing a couple Cincotti story-songs about women. "Her name was Lola, she was a show girl," she sang and, since I was early into trying to like this music, I must admit I understood completely where she was coming from! But still I pressed on.

I did because I've heard his first two releases, and I knew he was an excellent singer. Just check out how he handles standards like "I Love Paris" and "St. Louis Blues". What a nice, nuanced approach. It's easy to see why the guy must definitely get a woman's heart aflutter.

On this album his singing has changed. It's less subtle, and he's given to a vocal mannerism in which he kicks into a falsetto practically every song (often in the chorus, or in the transition to the chorus). Still, he has a powerful voice and I forgive him for his excesses because he is trying to part with the jazz world.

I think the guy may hit it big on Broadway someday. (Peter is VERY much in love with New York, his home.) He tells a good story with his music. He creates strong muscular pop music--catchy melodies with driving rhythms that create a lot of excitement. (Examples include "Lay Your Body Down (Goodbye Philadelphia)"and "Cinderella Beautiful").

My favorite on this release is a slower-paced song called "The Country Life". Amazing that this was written by such a young guy! Catch these lyrics.

Let's go back and find
the simple world we knew
I still want to live again
the country life with you

Don't let it be another thing
We always meant to do
Just let me live again
the country life with you

Such a sweet melody--it comes as no surprise to me to find a young fan performing a version of it on You Tube.

But I'd like to close by giving another reason why Peter Cincotti's going to hit it big: the guy has impeccable taste! I mean, when he chose to do a song from my youth, he hit it big with me by choosing one of favorite Carole King numbers: "Some Kind of Wonderful".

Long may you run, Peter!

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