Johnny Costa

Dream: Johnny Costa Plays Johnny Mercer

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Johnny Costa recorded only a small number of albums under his own name, but the talented pianist and long-time director of the public television children's series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was a gifted interpreter. For his final recording, made the year before his death in 1996, he concentrated on works by Johnny Mercer, who was known for many memorable lyrics, but actually composed the music to the suitable romantic ballad "Dream" as well. The remaining 15 songs feature some of Mercer's most magical collaborations, including a shimmering rendition of David Raksin's "Laura," a suitably playful take of Harry Warren's "Jeepers Creepers," a jaunty setting of Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark" that has shades of Teddy Wilson, plus an intricate Art Tatum-like interpretation of Harold Arlen's "That Old Black Magic." It's obvious that Mercer's lyric writing appealed to many of the top composers in his day, even though not a word is sung during this solo piano date. This CD serves as an excellent concluding chapter to Johnny Costa's career, though many jazz fans still await the joy of discovering his abilities as a performer.

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